Rabies is caused by infection with the rabies virus, or other viruses in the lyssavirus family including Australian bat lyssavirus. Rabies is usually acquired from a bite or scratch from an infected animal. It can also be contracted from contact with broken skin, or through organ transplantation.
You may be at risk of contracting rabies or other lyssaviruses if you handle bats in Australia or overseas. Currently, rabies virus does not occur in land-dwelling animals in Australia, but you may be at risk if you have contact with some wild or domestic mammals such as dogs, cats, and monkeys in a country outside of Australia where there is an increased risk of rabies.
You should ensure you do not pat or play with animals when you are overseas in an area where rabies is known to occur. Avoid contact with stray animals including cats and dogs.
Speak to your doctor if you are travelling to a country where there is a rabies virus risk. You may benefit from vaccination.
Even if you have had the rabies vaccine, if you are bitten or scratched by a bat or mammal including a cat or dog, you should:
- Immediately wash the wound thoroughly with water and soap if available for 15 mintues.
- Apply an antiseptic with anti-virus action such as povidone-iodine, iodine tincture, aqueous iodine solution or alcohol (ethanol) after washing.
- Seek medical attention as soon as possible.
Follow the links below to find trusted information about rabies.
Last reviewed: September 2018