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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

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Rabies: information for travellers -

Rabies is a viral disease spread by bites from infected animals, such as dogs and monkeys. If not treated quickly, rabies is often fatal.

Read more on myDr website


Read more on Queensland Health website

Rabies and lyssavirus

Rabies virus and Australian bat lyssavirus (ABLV) belong to a group of viruses called lyssaviruses.

Read more on WA Health website

Rabies (viral infection) information | myVMC

Rabies is a virus spread through infected animal bites. It causes brain inflammation and is fatal, but can be prevented with a vaccine.

Read more on myVMC – Virtual Medical Centre website

Lyssavirus | National Centre for Farmer Health

Thankfully Lyssavirus is a rare disease in Australia and only three human deaths have been recorded since it was discovered in 1996. Read more...

Read more on National Centre for Farmer Health website

Australian Bat Lyssavirus

Read more on Queensland Health website

Immunisation for travel | Australian Government Department of Health

If you travel outside Australia, you may get sick from a number of diseases that are preventable by vaccination. Different vaccines are needed for certain countries. You should consult your doctor or visit a travel health clinic six to 12 weeks before you travel.

Read more on Department of Health website

Department of Health | Travel Health Information

Overseas travel exposes you to wonderful new experiences, but it can also expose you to potentially serious health risks. Remember your health is your responsibility with a bit of preparation, you can prevent an illness that could ruin your holiday, or worse.

Read more on Department of Health website

Risks to your health when overseas

If you are travelling overseas you should prepared and understand the health risks you could face in the places you are travelling to and take all reasonable measures to prevent illness.

Read more on WA Health website

Department of Health | Communicable diseases information

This page contains information on some of the activities of the Office of Health Protection, in managing communicable diseases in Australia

Read more on Department of Health website

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