A Melbourne discovery of a flying fox carrying the deadly Lyssavirus has prompted a warning from health authorities about handling the animals. A resident of East Kew discovered the infected flying fox this week. It is the 10th case of the virus being discovered in flying foxes in Victoria since 1996. The virus has been found in four species within Australia, including the Grey-headed flying fox which is prevalent in Melbourne.
Victoria's chief health officer Dr Rosemary Lester explained that transmission of Lyssavirus to humans had never occurred in the state, with the only two human infections in Australia recorded in Queensland. However she warned that flying foxes who might roost in suburban backyards should never be handled. Dr Lester said Australian Bat Lyssavirus is transmitted when victims are scratched or bitten by a flying fox carrying the virus.
“If someone is bitten or scratched by a flying fox, they should wash the area with soap and water and on the same day see a medical practitioner for advice”', Dr. Lester said. Vaccination is available for anyone who might become infected, but it must be given as soon as possible after exposure.
The warning follows the recent deaths in Queensland of a number of horses infected with Hendra Virus which in 1994 killed racehorse trainer Vic Rail and 13 horses in Brisbane.