Scientists have discovered a deadly virus in bats in South Australia, prompting them to warn that a “rabies-like disease” could kill humans if left untreated.
SA Health issued a statement on Thursday, April 8th urging anyone outdoors to avoid any contact with bats.
The concern is for bats that carry the Australian bat virus (ABL), a rabies-like disease that can spread to humans if they are bitten.
It can affect the central nervous system and is usually fatal. The World Health Organization estimates that more than 55,000 people die from rabies worldwide each year.
And there have been only three cases of the Australian bat virus, or as it is known as Lisa virus or the canine virus in bats, since the virus was first identified in 1996, and all of them led to the death of patients.
According to the British newspaper “Daily Mail”, the virus has now been confirmed in bats in South Australia for the third time.
“The Australian bat virus is a rabies-like disease that can be transmitted to humans if they are bitten or scratched by an infected bat,” said Dr. Louise Flood, of the South African Department of Health and Welfare Department of Infectious Diseases Control. Symptoms, the condition is always fatal. While only 1% of bats usually carry the Australian bat virus, these recent exposures are worrying and an important reminder that bats should only be handled by appropriate trainers and vaccinated animals.
She added that immediate wound management and prevention can help prevent the virus from developing after being bitten or scratched by a bat.
Dr. Mary Carr of the Department of Primary Industries called on pet owners to keep their animals away from bats. “If you suspect your animal has been bitten or scratched by bats, please contact your local veterinarian or the emergency animal disease hotline,” she said.
ABL infection causes flu-like symptoms, including headache, fever and fatigue.
The disease rapidly progresses to paralysis, delirium, convulsions and death, usually within a week or two.
The rabies cases and the three known human cases of Australian bat virus infection showed great variation in the time it took for symptoms to appear after exposure to an infected animal, from several days to several years.
Officials say that if you are bitten or scratched by a bat, or touched by bats’ saliva, anywhere in the open air, you should immediately wash the wound for at least five minutes, apply an anti-viral disinfectant and seek medical attention as soon as possible.