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Lyssavirus : Look but don’t touch

September 14th, 2015

This blog post has been updated today Sept 14, 2014

The report in the media about Lyssavirus being found in a flying fox in Brisbane is a good reminder about LOOK BUT DONT TOUCH.  Flying fox are perfectly safe if you don’t touch them. Anyone who has had physical contact with a flying fox should seek medical attention.


The tragic story of the young child in QLD dying from lyssavirus makes all parents shudder. My thoughts are with his family at this terrible time.

The hysterical calls for culling bats, however is not the the answer to preventing a recurrence of this aweful event. There is an old adage: Do not touch the wildlife. Look but don’t touch. This an is especially important lesson for children.

Australia is a great country but the wildlife should be left alone. Snakes, spiders, flying fox, microbats, blue ringed octopus, cone shells can kill. Bee stings can sometimes be fatal. Even domestic dogs can be dangerous.

About Lyssavirus

Australians are generally unaware of lyssavirus, as the disease has only recently been found in the country. Australian Bat Lyssavirus (ABL) was first discovered in 1996. It is very closely related to the rabies virus found in other parts of the world. The viruses (ABL and classical rabies) are so similar, that vaccination against rabies prevents a person getting sick from Australian Bat Lyssavirus. There have only been two other cases of lyssavirus in Australia, in 1996 and 1998.This is NOT a common problem.

Many more persons die in Australia from snake bites, but we do not have hysterical demands for the killing of all snakes.

Unlike snakes, Bats almost never approach humans, but they may get tangled in nets or barbed wire, and sometimes persons want to help rescue them. This is NOT a good idea. Look but don’t touch. Call the 24 hour Bat Rescue Hotline (0488 228 134).

Only a very small proportion of flying fox or bats carry the virus (about half a percent of all the bats) but unless you know what you are doing, and are pre-vaccinated, it is like playing Russian Roulette if you handle these animals: In the same way that not all snakes are deadly but it is highly recommended to avoid contact with snakes.

You cannot catch lyssavirus from being near a bat. You will only catch lyssavirus from a bite or a scratch from its teeth – while the flying fox is alive. It is never a good idea to handle urine or faeces from any animal unless wearing gloves, but bat faeces will not transmit lyssavirus. The Rabies/ Lyssavirus virus is extremely fragile, and is inactivated by heat, sunlight etc. In one study…“The temperature of 30 degrees Celsius combined with intensive sunshine devitalized the virus within 1.5 hours” All the evidence from everywhere says the virus cannot spread unless there is saliva direct into an open wound.

Any fluid dropped by a bat while feeding is 100% likely to be urine. Bats do chew their food to a pulp and then spit out the fibre. The spat is as dry as can be, as the juice is totally extracted from the pulp and swallowed. Bats don’t spit saliva. Picking up an old dead flying fox is not a risk.

If you don’t bats or touch flying fox, you have nothing to fear.

Bats work hard for us.

Rabies Vaccination is needed before you handle bats

Uneducated persons who advocate shooting all the bats, or driving bat colonies away from the cities, do not realize that bats are an essential part of the Australian ecosystem. These animals work hard for us pollinating the forests of eucalyptus and melaleuca trees, and eating insects. Countries that have destroyed their bat populations need to spend a great deal of money and chemicals to do the job that the bats do for us – for nothing. Bats only need to be left alone to do their job. In Queensland there are many dedicated volunteers working 24 hours a day to assist the bats do this important job, ( for which incidentally they receive no government financial assistance.). The volunteers even have a facebook page for their poster bat, Gilbert.

Rabies viruses are deadly

Lyssavirus (named after Lyssa, the greek god of frenzy ) are RNA viruses. These viruses mutate easily, and can infect different species – hence the family of lyssaviruses can infect bats, dogs, cats, skunks, humans etc. Rabies kills about 50,000 persons per year worldwide, mostly in the developing world.

RNA viruses are some of the most dangerous infectious disease threats to mankind: Influenza, AIDS and Measles are caused by RNA viruses.

Symptoms and Treatment

If an infected animal bites a person, the rabies virus enters the wound. The virus is found in the animal’s saliva so that any broken skin is a concern – rabies can be contracted from bite, scratch or even a lick. The virus travels along the nerves, enters the brain. The first symptoms may be a burning sensation at the bite site. The virus causes the brain to malfunction; trouble swallowing, fear of water, paralysis and coma. Only a handful of persons have ever survived rabies disease without vaccination. Rabies vaccination must be undertaken before any symptoms develop. Once symptoms develop it is usually too late. There are 6 reported rabies survivors: These persons received a special treatment whereby the patient is placed in a coma to allow the brain to better weather the infection. The first person to survive was from Wisconsin, Milwaukee, USA, so the treatment is known as the Milwaukee protocol. So far, it has been tried at least 35 times and has only been successful in six.

So remember, when it comes to wildlife, whether you are in Australia or overseas: Look but don’t touch.

123 Responses to “Lyssavirus : Look but don’t touch”

  1. Mollo says:

    It’s very sad and i’m going through a somewhat similar dilemma. Woke up to the cat playing with a bat 30cm from my bedroom door. Bat was very much alive as when i got the cat to let go it flew around my house before landing, where i managed to throw a towel over it and poke it (with a 1m ruler) into a plastic tub. Just very worried. At the moment i’m putting my faith into my dog’s who where both in my room when we woke up to the cat. Is the rabies vaccine that hard on the body that one shouldn’t get it “just in case”? Mollo – Victoria

    • Dr Deb says:

      HI Mollo
      If you did not get a bite or a scratch, then you don‘t need to be vaccinated, but if there is any doubt …the rabies vaccine is not at all ‘hard on the body’. It is better to be safe than sorry. If you call the wildlife carers in your area, they will be able to rehome the bat for you.
      Dr Deb

  2. Can the lissavirus stay in the body for some years then cause problems

    • Dr Deb says:

      HI – yes it can – incubation for rabies can be many years – so even if the bite was a while ago – it is still worth getting vaccinated.
      Dr Deb

  3. sally says:

    Im a bit concernedour dog caught a fruit bat& had it in its mouth managed to het dog away from it cant find the bat obviously the dog bit the bat then dog licks me. Have small kids can i get dog vaccinated as its not worth the risk or do we stay away from dog & see how it goes how long can a dog be a carrier. Ive read dogs cant be carriers theres no risk etc but i dont believe that they said a dog couldnt get hendra virus.

    • Dr Deb says:

      Thanks for your question. If the dog is well, you do not need to do anything special. There is no risk to the children unless the dog bites. It is not recommended that humans be licked or bitten by their pets, whether they have had contact with fruit bats or otherwise. There are some serious germs itn eh saliva of dogs – people have died from being licked over wounds by their dog. If your dog bites your child, then you would need to seek medical attention. There are no cases reported of lyssavirus in dogs.
      regards Dr Deb

  4. Lou says:

    Hi Dr. Deb,

    I’m very worried about ABL. I was walking my dog in Queensland when a bat flew over me and pee’d in my eye and maybe mouth. I went to my doctor the next day and after he did a brief bit of reading he said he didn’t think I was at risk so advised against any post exposure treatment. It’s now been about 4 months and I still think about it every day and panic whenever I get a cold or headache. I forgot what I was going to ask but I need to talk to someone about it.

    Thank you,

    • Dr Deb says:

      Dear Lou,
      You may stop worrying.
      Exposure to bat urine, (or even faeces and/or blood) does not constitute a risk and that is why it does not require post-exposure vaccination. The virus is never found in those tissues. Best regards Dr Deb

  5. Alex says:

    Hi Dr Deb,
    I’m in a bit of a panic but it is probably nothing – I have some 2-day-old open cuts on my fingers(paper cuts) and early this morning I handled some fruit which had been fed on by fruitbats. Is there any danger of saliva having entered the wound?
    Thank you

    • Dr Deb says:

      Hi Alex
      You do not need to worry.
      Two day old wounds generally have started to heal so there is no open conduit for viruses to enter. Plus the Rabies virus is extremely fragile, and is inactivated by heat, sunlight, etc. There are no cases of persons every being infected in the manner you have described. To catch Rabies/ Lyssavirus you need to be bitten or licked over an open wound by the sick animal to allow the virus to enter. I think as a general principle it is always a good idea to wear gloves when one is in the garden.

  6. Annette says:


    This evening my son was bitten on the hand when he was trying to remove a small insect eating bat. The bite is microscopic but can be seen under a good light as a series of small pricks and a tiny laceration. He washed it with soap and water for several minutes and then applied Betadine as per the recommendations.
    Do the micro bats carry the virus to your knowledge? He will see the GP tomorrow first thing. We managed to get the bat out of the house and it flew away into the bush. (Brisbane).
    Many thanks.

    • Dr Deb says:

      Dear Annette, Currently all bats in Australia (including microbats ) are considered to carry a potential risk of Lyssavirus, so your son would be recommended to have post exposure treatment, just to be on the safe side. The treatment is very safe. Regards Dr Deb

  7. Sarah says:

    I am a vet nurse and brought a microbat home from work to keep it confined overnight as a carer couldn’t collect it until tomorrow. My cat may have come in contact with it through the box it was in. He definitely wasn’t bitten or scratched but I’m scared that he may have contracted lyssaviris. Should I be worried if he just sniffed the box it was in and/or the bat through the box? Thanks.

    • Dr Deb says:

      HI Sarah, Good question …There is no risk to your cat unless it has been bitten or scratched. Regards Dr Deb

  8. Liz says:

    I found a dead bat in the kids room tonight, I think the dog may have killed it. My youngest son told me that he trod on it (no shoes). I picked it up and threw it into the forest. Shorty after it had returned (probably from the dog) and I discarded it again in a place the dogs could not retrieve it. Do I need to do anything to protect my family? Thanks from Liz

    • Dr Deb says:

      Hi Liz, sorry for delay – I have been overseas. As long as the bat did not bite or break the skin, there is no risk. Regards Dr Deb

  9. Hannah says:


    A bat flew into our laundry and my dad picked it up and it bit him. He never thought anything of it and didnt see a doctor anytime. This was over 3 years about maybe even 4 or 5 years ago.. I saw a documentary on 60 minuets about lyssavirus and I am afraid he might have it because it said the virus can be dormant in the body for years! Please help!

    • Dr Deb says:

      HI Hannah – I would suggest he get vaccinated – just in case. The incubation can be many years, but once you get symptoms it is too late. The vaccine is very safe. I assume you are in Australia? If so the vaccine is provided free. Regards Dr Deb

  10. Carmen says:

    Dear Deb,

    Hello I am a bit worried. My cat bought in a small bat around 9-12 months ago, which my partner managed to get off him using a plastic bag and disposed of it, as it was dead. Now I worry that it may have infected the cat and if so can the cat infect us. He often sleeps on the end of the bed and sometimes attacks our feet at night, and can get a bit agro if you pat him too long and will bite you, when he doesn’t want to be patted. This is his normal behaviour. We have two teenage kids and I have heard it can stay in system for more than 2yrs before presenting itself. Should we all get vaccinated?

    • Dr Deb says:

      HI Carmen, Please see above reply re animal bites and cats. As long as the bat did not bite anyone, you dont need to be vaccinated. It is good to be aware. Regards Dr Deb

      • Carmen says:

        Thanks for your advice. I see someone else had similar concerns to myself regarding the cat passind on the virus, but my cat is definitely healthy so you have put my mind at ease. Thank you.

  11. Sandy says:

    Last week I awoke in the morning to see my cats eating a bat on our back porch. By the time I had seen them doing this all that remained of the bat was the skull and parts of the wings. I also just watched the 60 minutes documentary on lyssavirus and I am very worried as I live in Qld. Because our cats are young they like to play with us by scratching and lightly biting. Since eating the bat both myself and my 5 year old son have been scratched by one of our cats. Should I be concerned? Should I be getting my cats vaccinated? Should I be having my family vaccinated? Any advice you could offer would be appreciated as I am very worried.

    • Dr Deb says:

      HI Sandy, I am not aware that there is a rabies vaccine available for cats in Australia. It is not a good idea for any animal to bite a human, as there can be serious germs in cat (or dog) saliva that can lead to dangerous skin infections. If the cat is well, you cannot catch lyssavirus from the cat. Regards Dr Deb

      • Sandy says:

        Thank you so much for taking the time to reply. You have certainly helped put my mind at ease and your advice is greatly appreciated.

  12. Caz says:

    Hi, my daughter ran bare footed on a foot path contaminated with bat droppings ( faeces and chewed up fig fruits). Foot may of had graze on it. Can this pose an infection risk from lyssa with the chewed and spat out fruit having potential saliva contamination?
    This was 3 pm in the afternoon So imagine the bats had been gone for several hours

    • Dr Deb says:

      HI Caz, there is NO risk at all from the exposure to bat droppings – it needs to be a bite with saliva. Regards Dr Deb

      • Caz says:

        Thank you . Mothers anxiety running mad.
        Btw Do you happen to know the viability of ablv once out of the host? For instance in a droplet of saliva ( potential contaminant ) on say a piece of fruit or feed from bats ? I have found some info saying a dead bat (over 4 hrs ) is no longer a risk.
        Also my daughters small graze on feet were not fresh so presumably had also started to heal , close over .

        • Dr Deb says:

          HI Caz, The Rabies/ Lyssavirus virus is extremely fragile, and is inactivated by heat, sunlight etc. In one study…“The temperature of 30 degrees Celsius combined with intensive sunshine devitalized the virus within 1.5 hours” All the evidence from everywhere says The virus cannot spread unless there is saliva direct into an open wound. Regards Dr Deb

          • caz says:

            Hi Deb,
            Thanks for your help. It is difficult to find info re environmental exposure.

            So from your info I can be reassured my daughter does not need PEP?

            and to have constituted an “exposure” an infected bat would of had to lick, bit or spit directly into her graze…Is this correct?

            So No BAT, No risk? Is this the motto?

          • Dr Deb says:

            Hi Caz – you are correct, No Bat No Risk, regards Dr Deb

  13. Michell Sky says:

    Hi, my cat presented a very small bat on our door step. The bat was dead.I decided to bath the cat. During her bath she scratched my wrist. This was yesterday morning prior to seeing the documentary on 60 mins about Lyssavirus. My question is. If my cat has been infected, what would be the max. time before she showed symptoms and from my understanding my family and I are not at risk of contracting the virus if she happens to scratch or bite one of us in the meantime?

    • Dr Deb says:

      HI Michell,
      If the cat was infected with rabies and was sick, and bit you, then there is a risk. The good news is there have not been ANY cases of lyssavirus reported in cats in the whole of Australia.
      In answer to your question, the maximum incubation time for rabies in humans is not perfectly clear but probably many years ( 5 or more ), however most cases develop within the first year of exposure.
      The ideal situation would be to keep cats inside so they cannot interact with the local wildlife.
      Regards Dr Deb

      • Michell Sky says:

        Thanks so much for your reply, the service you offer is fantastic and greatly appreciated.

  14. Charli says:

    Last week there was a micro bat in my house. I caught it with a towel and as my father tried to get it out of my hands, it bit him, not bad it didn’t draw any blood or anything, im now worried that it may have scratched me as i pulled the wing out and i didnt notice (maybe im thinking too much about it and it didnt). My dad isnt taking me serious when i tell him about the diseases they carry.

    • Dr Deb says:

      Hi Charli, If your father was bitten by a bat, it would be STRONGLY recommended for him to be vaccinated, just in case. If he waits until he gets sick with lyssavirus, it would be too late and there is no treatment and he would DIE. He should consult a doctor familiar with lyssavirus prevention immediately. Regards Dr Deb

  15. alicia says:

    hi deb im really worried. 2 weeks ago I stood on bat poo with no shoes on than last night my dog had bat pooh him I have a open wound near my nail I am so scared I have caught something… thankyou for your time

    • Dr Deb says:

      Hi Alicia, there is no risk from contact with bat droppings, the lyssavirus cannot live in bat droppings. You can relax. Regards Dr Deb

  16. WorryWart says:

    Hi Dr Deb, Do you know what the approximate cost is/should be for the post exposure vaccine series?

  17. WorryWart says:

    Hi Dr Deb – my question disappeared. Just wondering how much roughly the post exposure vaccine course is. My Dr couldn’t tell me and before I order it in just want to see what I should budget for.

    • Dr Deb says:

      Dear WorryWart,
      The POST EXPOSURE rabies course is currently provided free by QLD Health if you are in QLD ( thank you Qld Health but not sure how long this will last given all the cutbacks(!). At our clinics we bulk bill the post exposure visits but what other clinics charge, I cannot say.

      RE missing Question: All questions are moderated by me as there are is a lot of spam that I must delete.

      Regards Dr Deb

  18. WorryWart says:

    No not in QLD, in VIC. I appreciate your answer though. Looks like there are a lot of worried people out there. Thanks for taking the time to answer our queries.

  19. Ryan says:

    Hi there,
    I was wondering if the lyssavirus or any other bad stuff can be caught from birds in Australia. I was at a local zoo a few weeks ago walking through a bird avary they had on their premisis. I came across a rainbow lorikeet that was eating some food and looked tame enough. This was a walk-through avary so I was actually in it with the birds. I put my finger in front of it so it could get on if it wanted to. It got on my finger and kept eating its food, then it decided to have a nibble at my finger, a fairly hard nibble that broke the skin. It wasnt an aggressive attack or anthing, it just seemed as if it thought my finger was a piece of fruit or something.
    I didnt think anything of it until I saw 60 mins the other night. should i be concerned about this? Regards.

  20. Holly says:

    My husband found a dead bat on the back of his ute the other day and thought maybe a cat had got it because its head was chewed off. He picked it up with his bare hands by the wing and threw it off the ute and then went and ate his lunch without washing his hands. He said he doesn’t know whether there was any blood or saliva where he touched it or how long the bat had been dead for. Can the virus live in a dead bat and do you think my husband should be vaccinated? Also can it be spread to other people?

    • Dr Deb says:

      Hi Holly
      This is such a good question, thank you.

      Firstly it is VERY scary that your husband did not wash his hands before eating. There are many serious health problems that can be caught from eating off unclean hands. Yes …many people get away with it much of the time, but some of these diseases can KILL just as effectively as Lyssavirus and are a LOT more common than Lyssavirus… Diseases that are not reported in the news at night, or in the newspapers, but that appear in doctors reports and journals…Disease such as salmonella, shigella, hepatitis A, giardia , enterovirus, amoeba, campylobacter, influenza, streptococcus, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), the common cold, cytomegalovirus, staphylococcus, and Epstein-Barr virus to name a few.

      Food poisoning results, on average, in 5.4 million cases a year in Australia (including 120 deaths), 1.2 million visits to doctors, 300,000 prescriptions, and 2.1 million days of lost work each year. The estimated annual cost of food poisoning in Australia is $1.25 billion. A large majority of these cases of foodborne illness are single, sporadic infections.

      Reference: http://www.ausfoodnews.com.au/2011/11/07/food-safety-week-focuses-on-new-statistics-releases-and-claims.html

      The abundance of cooking shows do nothing to assist the public understand about food hygeine and safety, …you never see the cooks wash their hands!
      These days.. hand sanitiser is available as a convenient alternative, for times when a tap with soap and water is not available.

      The above information about hand washing aside, for all practical purposes, you cannot catch Lyssavirus from a dead bat. The bat must bite you.
      Lyssavirus would only spread from person to person if a sufferer had lyssavirus and then bit another person (like a caregiver). This is why when someone is diagnosed with Lyssavirus, their nurses etc receive post exposure rabies vaccination.
      Since we have had only three deaths from Lyssavirus in Australia, this is an insignificant risk compared to the risk of food poisoning, and car accidents etc.
      Thanks again for your question, Regards Dr Deb

      • Holly says:

        Thanks Deb, I really appreciate your detailed answer. I am constantly asking my husband to wash his hands before eating etc. but he doesn’t listen, although I think he’s getting better with it. I’m constantly washing my hands especially since we have a 11 month old baby so my husband thinks I’m over the top! Like you mention above there are many diseases that are passed on via the hands so I’m of the belief that the cleaner the hands the better! Thank you for putting my mind at rest regarding the lyssavirus query on the dead bat. Much appreciated.

  21. Lauren Quilligan says:

    Hi there,

    My dog got hold of a bat overnight. He had bitten it so has come into contact with its bodily fluids. The bat has been removed by wildcare, but now i’m wondering if i should be worried about the dog and the risk to us?? We have children and i am pregnant. The dog is a puppy so he doesn’t bite but he mouthes and licks a lot

    • Dr Deb says:

      HI Lauren
      The persons who collected the bat may be able to advise if the bat was infected with Lyssavirus – this is extremely unlikely as the rate of Lyssavirus infection in flying fox overall is extremely low.

      A preliminary study at the CSIRO Australian Animal Health Laboratory (AAHL) on cats and dogs inoculated with ABLV was inconclusive (McColl et al 2007). In this study, all the animals (three cats and five dogs) seroconverted after intramuscular inoculation with ABLV. There was no evidence of ABLV excretion in saliva, no detection of virus or antigen at necropsy, and only mild transient behavioural changes. More

      What this means is that it have not been conclusively shown that dogs are easily infected, and one would expect them to show symptoms.
      It is extremely important that puppies be taught bite control at an early age so that they do not bite. (There are many good articles online about teaching puppies bite inhibition.) It is also important, from a health and safety point of view, that dogs learn not to lick humans. The germs in their mouths can be extremely dangerous to children and especially pregnant women, especially if they lick over broken skin.

      More info on safety with dogs is at http://www.cdc.gov/healthypets/pets/dogs.html

      If you follow these guidelines, not only will you be safe from Lyssavirus but also other diseases, Regards Dr Deb

  22. Amber Shackleton says:

    Dr Deb,
    My 5 year old son was bouncing on the trampoline, he decided to show off to his older brother and lick bat poo that was on the trampoline. I’m not sure if I need to do anything at this point.
    Kind Regards

    • Dr Deb says:

      Hi Amber,
      There is no evidence that lyssavirus can be transmitted in this fashion, although other bacteria cannot be excluded. If he gets sick, take him to the GP but if he is well, you do not need to do anything other than counsel the child that his behaviour is not good.
      Regards Dr Deb

      • AmberShackleton says:

        Thank you,
        I just wanted to by sure. Believe me we’ve already had a big discussion about this.

  23. Grahame says:

    I have had the same problem as Sally above where my dog has killed a fruit bat . My concern is if the bat had lyssia virus would it pass it on to the dog and you mention it is passed on by saliva and a bite , if this is the case how did the people who have contracted it from horses acquire it. With this in mind could the dog then pass it on by just sneezing or licking a person. Reluctant to have contact with the dog at present .

    • Dr Deb says:

      HI Grahame, Yes it is a good question and not an uncommon one.
      You will probably have seen stories like this one
      It is not known how the horse (or horses?) contracted Lyssavirus as there were no bats on the property. This highlights that we do not have all the answers. However since as you have seen from the questions on this blog, there are many occasions where dogs and bats come into contact – if this sort of contact was a significant problem for dog owners, we would know by now, by there being cases reported owners in contact with dogs. Rabies is spread by an infected animal biting another animal so if you avoid being bitten by your dog, then there is negligible risk. To spread disease, the virus has to travel from the site of the bite, to brain and the salivary glands in the infected person. Saliva with Lyssavirus then has to get into a wound, not just lie on the skin. Lyssavirus is extremely rare and the 3 cases in Qld residents involved bat bites, not dog contact. To put this in perspective in Australia, you are far more likely to be killed by snake bite, or be involved in a fatal car crash than get lyssavirus. Patting your dog is not a risk, but as I have mentioned, saliva contact should be avoided in dogs for other reasons. Regards Dr Deb

  24. Jacky Cartwright says:

    Hi Deb,

    My dog has just came into contact with quite a large bat. I live in qld. We called a bat lady and she came and searched for the bat, it was quite injured and still for some time, but then flew away when she approached it. The bat did have blood on it, the lady stated she could see bone. My dog appears to have no scratches on him, however we did see my dog holding the bat down with his legs and my has open wounds under his legs in between his belly skin from his harness. My questions are as follows;

    A. Can I get my dog vaccinated in case he has come in contact with the bat blood?
    B. How much does this cost?
    C. Is this possible for transmission.

    Please understand I have three young children. Thank you.

    • Dr Deb says:

      Dear Jacky
      A. That is a very good question about rabies vaccine for dogs – I believe there is a vaccine for animals who are being transported to rabies infected countries but I do not know the cost – perhaps ask a vet?
      B – see A
      C – Vanishingly unlikely. (In order for the dog to give lyssavirus to your children, the animal would have to contract lyssavirus from the bat, and then get sick and shed virus in its saliva and bite or lick the children over wounds etc. This has never happened in Australia. Obviously sick dogs should be taken to the vet, and saliva contact should be avoided with dogs for many reasons. In order to catch lyssavirus your children would need to handle a flying fox. You may find it helpful to read the answers to some of the other dog related questions in earlier posts, if you have not already done so.)
      Regards Dr Deb

  25. Jacky Cartwright says:

    Hi Deb,

    Ok thank you for your feedback, I will taking my dog to the vet in the morning to find out more information.

    As for question C, I understand how the kids would get infected, I was more so referring to the likelihood of transmission at this point to my dog. With his open wounds and the bat having blood and bone exposed etc.

    Thanks for your feedback. Jacky

    • Dr Deb says:

      Hi Jacky,
      Lyssavirus ( and rabies virus ) live in nervous tissue mostly – not so much in the blood, so the usual route of transmission is saliva to bite site, then virus tries to enter the nerves to be carried in the nerves to the brain. Since the prevalence of lyssavirus in bats is vanishingly small and the transmission to dogs is extremely rare, I think you would be more likely to win the lotto than have your dog get lyssavirus from that exposure. Regards Dr Deb

  26. Sarah Feltham says:

    Hi my dog killed a bat last night we used a shovel and bag to get rid of the bat. My dog however has come inside and my son and a friends son were both licked on the face by the dog? I took them to doctors straight away and they said there was no risk but i am still worried. If the dog licked on the mouth would there be a risk?

    • Dr Deb says:

      Hi Sarah,
      There would not have been time for the animal exposure from the bat, if it was infected, to get to the saliva of the dog and infect your children. However, it is NEVER a good idea to let dogs lick faces of people and this is a good chance to teach the kids about that. I agree with your doctor there is nothing to worry about. People can catch many diseases from dogs – perhaps teach your dog not to lick faces. Regards Dr Deb

  27. Karen says:

    My cat may have come into contact with a young bat which was injured. Bat was bleeding and cat just staring at it. I could see no evidence of blood on my cat. 2 nights later, cat has been throwing up – coincidence or should I worry about her. She was pretty much herself till then, threw up a couple of hours after her dinner.

    • Dr Deb says:

      HI Karen,
      You may be interested to know that the incubation period for rabies ( and likely lyssavirus ) is usually three to eight weeks. It is rarely as short as nine days or as long as seven years. I think if the cat continues to be sick, he needs to be checked by the vet.
      Regards Dr deb

      • Karen says:

        Many thanks. Took her to vet today who gave her shots for the vomiting and antibiotics. He thinks she just probably has a bit of an infection as lungs, temp etc all checked out fine. At least shots worked and she is not vomiting and even managed to nibble on a tiny bit of food. Great blog by the way.

  28. Danielle says:

    Can a dog get sick from eating bat droppings? We cut a tree down that was rotten. Had two bats in it and large amount of droppings. This was four days ago. Today dog is vomiting and diahrea, is not eating or drinking. I’m not sure if it is related and if I should contact the vet.

    • Dr Deb says:

      HI, Yes you should contact the vet. Mammals cannot catch Lyssavirus from eating droppings, but I am not sure about other diseases in dogs so best to get your pet checked. Regards Dr Deb

  29. Diana says:

    Last night I had a bat brush against my head, it touched my face slightly but fluttered a little on my head before it flew away. I also received rabies PEP last year for some other exposure. Should I have rabies boosters now?

    • Dr Deb says:

      Hello Diana,
      If the bat did not bite or scratch you, you do not need post exposure vaccination.
      Regards Dr Deb

  30. angel says:

    Hi doctor, may i ask if i will have rabies since i was bittenby our dog 5 years ago, ive not develop any signs of rabies until now, ive never been vaccinated, our dog is vaccinenated and it is not been exposed to other animals and our dog did not have died and he is healthy till now, ive been tothe hospital and they gave me pep,pcecv vaccine for about 0,7,14,28, is this vaccine will help eliminate the lyssavirus in my body or if not what treatment should i undergo to eliminate this lyssavirus. Thanks doctor!

    • Dr Deb says:

      Dear Angel,
      If the dog bit you 5 years ago, and the dog is still well, and you have had the post exposure rabies vaccine, you are not going to get rabies from that bite.
      regards Dr Deb

      • Angel says:

        they said it is pre exposure vaccine since it is 5 years ago iam bitten by our dog. thanks doctor!

        • Dr Deb says:

          HI Angel,
          Whether it is called pre or post exposure vaccine, it is the same vaccine and does the same job,
          Regards Dr Deb

          • angel says:

            thanks doctor..it causing me a tremendous anxiety because of thinking that i will have a rabies..another question doctor, can my dog get rabies since my dog is not been exposed to other dogs and what is the lifespan of dogs?

  31. Lindy says:

    Hi Dr Deb,

    Thank you for such a comprehensive article, including the Q&A in the comments!

    Late yesterday afternoon my 6 year old son ate a random mulberry he found under our clothesline {we don’t have a mulberry tree in our yard, neither do our closet neighbours}, so of course I’m worried as to how the mulberry got there. We’ve seen a few bats getting around now in the early evenings and I’m wondering, if the fruit had been dropped by a bat & my son ate it- would he be at risk of contracting the virus?

    I’m feeling much more confident that the answer would be NO, but would like double check anyway.
    And believe me, he has been well informed about not eating anything he finds on the ground- whether he thinks it’s edible or not (my husband & I can’t believe he ate it in the first place!).

    Thanks in advance 🙂

    • Dr Deb says:

      Dear Lindy
      Thanks for the question; yes you are correct – there is no risk of Lyssavirus from that exposure.
      Dr Deb

  32. Jen says:

    Hi deb

    Last night I awoke to an awful screeching and my dog yelping, only to run out n find him with a bat pinned down. I yelled and it flew away. I don’t know if the dog had been scratched/ bitten but due to his huge cry I may think he has?? Is this just another trip to the vet? Or shall I monitor it??

    • Dr Deb says:

      Hi Jen,
      check the dog for wounds, and if there is no broken skin, you do not need to do anything
      Dr Deb

  33. Natalie says:

    Hello, about a month ago I was staying in a small room in country victoria and at night a microbat landed on my face. There were no wounds and I used gloves to catch it and release it outside, but as I was asleep when it landed I couldn’t be sure if I had any contact with the bat on my mouth or eyes. Would you recommend a visit to my GP?
    Thank you for your time.

  34. Barb Brindley says:

    I have just read an article in SeniorAu where they have apparently misquoted from information you have supplied regarding the flying foxes, bats and Lyssavirus. They have stated that “55,000 people die from rabies every year (but omitted to say worldwide) and included Lyssavirus in this number, without stating that only 3 people have died in history, or that out of millions of bats less than 0.05% are actually infected with this disease. If you wish to check the rest of the article (which I’m sure has other mistakes it was dated Monday 30 September 2013. I’m not sure if you are able to advise them to amend these comments as some are very misleading.

    • Dr Deb says:

      HI Barb
      Perhaps you can send me the link to the article you mentioned and I can follow this. There are certainly only 3 deaths in Australia from Lyssavirus, ( but there are persons dying overseas from Lyssavirus as well as in Australia)
      regards Dr Deb

  35. amy says:


    I have read the above questions and answers but am still really concerned. On tuesday morning i found the head and wings of a bat in my yard that i think my cat may have eaten i have disposed of it and have no way of determining whether it was ill or not. Yesterday he attacked me and i have a few scratches on my shoulder (which are a bit sore but not deep), it was only the second time he has done that to me in the 3 and a half years i’ve had him, other than that he has been himself. I checked him for scratches and bites but it was hard to tell if they were new ones or the ones he got about a week ago from fighting another cat which he received antibiotics for as one became infected. I spoke to my doctor and he didnt know much about lyssavirus. Just need to put my mind at ease, what are the chances of my cat or myself getting lyssavirus? Should i get vaccinated as a precaution?

    • Dr Deb says:

      HI Amy,
      The short answer is – there is no clear history of you being bitten by a bat, so there is no need for you to be vaccinated. There have been no reported cases in Australia where a cat caught lyssavirus from eating a bat. If your cat is sick it should be taken to the vet to be checked, but if it appears normal, then it wont have active lyssavirus. Lyssavirus is INCREDIBLY rare – even in bats. I cannot give you statistics as very little research money is being directed to lyssavirus, so we don’t have the science to answer your question more precisely with the exact ‘ chances ‘ .

      You may find this link helpful.

      It is highly recommended to keep cats inside so they cannot injure local wildlife, and cause you this kind of concern.
      Dr Deb

      • amy says:

        Thank you very much for your reply i can stop stressing now. My cat now has a bell on his collar and stays inside at night. Can people donate money to the research?

        • Dr Deb says:

          HI Amy,
          Another good question. The Lincoln Lyssavirus foundation (which was founded by the parents of the little boy who recently died of Lyssavirus ) was trying to raise money for more public education, and research on this disease, but they seem to have disbanded
          regards Dr Deb

  36. Terd says:

    dr deb i was bitten by our dog 4 years ago, and i was not vaccinated for anti rabies our dog is still alive, what should i do? thanks

    • Dr Deb says:

      Hi –
      If the dog is alive 4 years after he bit you , he does not have lyssavirus or rabies, and you do not need to do anything,
      regards Dr Deb

  37. Stella says:

    Is there any scenario where lyssavirus could be contracted from eating fruit exposed or eaten by bats

    • Dr Deb says:

      HI Stella
      You can only catch lyssavirus from being bitten by a rabid animal, not eating fruit. See one of the earlier comments for further discussion of this question.
      regards Dr Deb

  38. Renee says:

    My husband took our kids to the park and then he noticed they were chewing and they were chewing fruit that the bats have already eaten.

    Do I need to take them to the doctors?
    Will they get sick?


    • Dr Deb says:

      Hi Renee,
      if you read the other replies, you will see this question addressed. No you don’t need to take them to the doctors. They wont get Lyssavirus, but eating fruit any animal has partly eaten is not ideal.
      Dr Deb

  39. Sarah says:

    hi Dr Deb,

    I know you have probably already answered this, but just wanted to confirm. My dogs caught a bat this morning, and whilst i bent over to put my shoes on, the dog licked my face (I normally dont allow licking). I was just wondering if it is possible to catch lyysavirus from this or if i should be vaccinated against it? Thanks in advance

  40. Uma says:

    Hi Dr Deb,
    I got bit by a pet German shepherd earlier this evening. It is not a deep bite, basically looks like a scratch, but will I get Rabies? Do I need to go to the doctor and get the vaccination?

  41. nazneen parvin says:

    Dear Dr..
    I am little bit panic about my issue, though perhaps it was not. I have used a soap to wash my hands which had used to wash a dog bite wound, though I don’t know whether the dog was rabid or not. After one day, mistakenly I cut my middle finger by blade. Now my Q’s can that cut wound cause any problem with my?????? Plz reply. I am feeling distressing..

    • Dr Deb says:

      HI Nazdeen,
      You cannot catch Rabies from the soap, Soap destroys the rabies virus.
      Dr Deb

  42. Giane says:

    Hi, two nights ago, my cat had eaten a small bat on our front deck. she has a wound to her head that could be from the bat. I have contacted the vet and he is unsure of what to do. We have three small children, and my daughter has an allergy to our cat, so we are no longer able to keep her indoors. She had eaten a bat a few months ago, and has since bitten and scratched everyone in the family. Is there a vaccine available for the cat, and should the family be vaccinated too? The cat is well otherwise.

    • Dr Deb says:

      Hi Giane
      There is a rabies vaccine for animals, which is available at some Vets.
      if the cat is well, it does not generally transmit rabies however, it is not good to have a pet that bites members of the family. See replies to previous questions.
      Dr Deb

  43. Debra says:

    Hi Dr Deb,
    Thank you so much for these replies. There is much fear around about this virus. I have been worried about my one year old who was playing under a fruit tree at a park, he put something in his mouth which I tried to wipe out with my unclean fingers. I have been worried even after phoning 13HEALTH. The area was wet and in the shade and I was concerned I may have had something on my fingers. There were no bats were around but I’ve been worried none the less. I feel in good company reading other parents concerns and somewhat comforted by your confident replies. No Bat No Risk is going to be my self talk from now on. Thank you from a grateful mum!

    • Dr Deb says:

      Hi Debra,
      thanks for the comment.
      Yes: No Bat, No Risk
      I actually rang 13Health today and was told 13Health is a symptoms based phone service run by QLD health, so if you have no symptoms, they are not able to tell you anything except to read a fact sheet to you – fact sheets that are on the net.

      I have been astonished how many very precise questions have been made on this blog, and am so happy that I can put my readers minds at rest.
      regards Dr Deb

  44. Vijayalakshmi says:

    Hello, Dr Deb!

    My daughter landed herself a double whammy yesterday. She got scratched on the hand by a pet, which is vaccinated, so surely there’s no cause for concern. Then, she got licked on her pants (the thigh) by a stray dog. She remembers washing her hands before eating/touching anything else. But she didn’t change her pants. Could there be even a chance that the virus could stay alive on her clothing and have entered her mouth/eyes?
    She has a mouth ulcer in the front of her mouth, btw. It isn’t open or raw but is healing.

  45. Hypochondriac Lady says:


    Approximately six and a half years ago, I was staying with my parents in NSW.

    I woke up thinking there was a bird flying around the room, so I ran out and woke my dad, who told me it was a bat. I believe he caught it without incident and put it outside.

    I know its a long time ago but I was asleep with a bat in the room with me.
    I’ve since given birth to two kids.

    Should I be concerned?

    Also, this may sound ridiculous, but today I was lying on the trampoline when I felt a droplet of something land on my hand. I looked up and a bat was flying about 40 feet above me. I think I felt a few other small droplets land on my body after the bat was gone. It was overcast, so I’m thinking (hoping) the clouds may have been spitting.
    I have ezcema on the palms of my hands.
    I did wash them straight away with antibacterial soap, but I’m still pretty worried.

    Please put my mind at ease!

    • Dr Deb says:


      1. the droplets you describe are not a problem ( No Bat No risk )
      2. the bat in the room
      The incubation period of Rabies or Lyssavirus can be up to 10 years, though most is within a few months. so just because it is 6 years, it is no guarantee
      These are the guidelines

      Postexposure prophylaxis should be considered when direct contact between a human and a bat has occurred, unless the exposed person can be certain a bite, scratch, or mucous membrane exposure did not occur.
      In instances in which a bat is found indoors and there is no history of bat-human contact, the likely effectiveness of postexposure prophylaxis must be balanced against the low risk such exposures appear to present. Postexposure prophylaxis can be considered for persons who were in the same room as a bat and who might be unaware that a bite or direct contact had occurred (e.g., a sleeping person awakens to find a bat in the room or an adult witnesses a bat in the room with a previously unattended child, mentally disabled person, or intoxicated person) and rabies cannot be ruled out by testing the bat. Postexposure prophylaxis would not be warranted for other household members.
      I recommend you go and see someone – who knows about rabies – to discuss this further.

      Dr Deb

  46. Azhar says:

    Hi….. 15 days ago one street cat licked my finger skin of that finger was intact. There was no saliva but I washed with cold water. While washing water reached to other finger whose skin was broken. Do I need to take vaccine (rabies)

    • Dr Deb says:

      HI Azhar,
      For the record, ideally animal bites should be washed with soap and water.
      The rabies virus would not survive in the water to get to the other finger
      Dr Deb

  47. Craig says:


    I was walking under a large group of feeding flying foxes last night, when I looked up and something (a liquid) landing in my eye. It could have been anything including salvia or fruit with salvia on it – would you recommend getting the vaccine?

    Also I was bitten by a dog in Thailand 10 months ago, and have received 5 post exposure shots – so would that mean I would need another 5 shots or would the vaccine not be necessary?


    • Dr Deb says:

      HI Craig

      re walking under flying fox – There is no need to have the vaccine, there is no risk unless you are bitten by the flying fox

      If you have had post exposure vaccination and you get another risk exposure, you only ever need another 2 shots after each risk exposure

      Dr Deb

  48. CJ says:

    Hi, I’ve done something very stupid and now very worried about possible risk..
    Whilst out walking my friend found and picked up a small dead flying fox and I also held the bat briefly by its claws, don’t ask me why! Whilst I’m unaware of any broken skin on my fingers and did wash my hands straight afterwards, should I be worried about handling the dead animal?

    • Dr Deb says:

      Dear CJ,
      If the animal was dead and did not bite you, as described above, you are not at risk of lyssavirus.
      Dr Deb

  49. Rb says:

    Hi there Dr Deb, this morning our cat was running around with a bat in her mouth, she kept dropping it because it was fighting back. I managed to get her away from it. My question is should I be worried about that virus ?? A little boy at my kids school died at the start of the year from a bat scratch 🙁
    Thanks for your time 🙂

    • Dr Deb says:

      HI Rb,
      You need to be bitten by the flying fox, so if you are not bitten, you dont have to worry
      Dr Deb

  50. Dawn says:

    Hi Dr deb,
    I live in henderson NV, and I was walking my dogs early in the morning 7 days ago, it was still little dark out, but very cold. While waiting for dogs to do there thing I grabbed bags out if poopy station and waited. Then I heard something flutter right near my ear. I thought bird, but 2 days later started stressing about it and saw a few marks ans 2 dots now I’m freaking out, went to hospital and because I didn’t feel or see the bat they didn’t think it was. I’m still stressing I dint want to die. Any advice?

    • Dr Deb says:

      Hi Dawn
      If you are not sure if you have been bitten or not, it is best to get treatment as if you have been bitten, so you don’t have to worry. If you wait and it was a bat, and you get symptoms of rabies, then you are in deep trouble.
      On the question of whether it was a significant bite, the staff at the hospital cannot have any more knowledge than you of whether it was a bat or not.
      Rabies vaccine is not that expensive and worth it for peace of mind (in my opinion) .
      Dr Deb

      • Dawn says:

        We’ll, I was at the local hospital twice and they wouldn’t give me the shots. They thought my anxiety was too high and it was anxiety. I left there twice in tears. There isn’t much you can do when you don’t gave proof. I truly pray that I will be ok, after reading about all the different incubation periods. The doctors said that I’d be really sick by now not the small symptoms I’ve presented to them. It’s really said about the lack of this disease in clinicians.

  51. Rebecca says:

    Dear Dr Deb,

    My 5 year old daughter was bitten quite badly by a rat whilst asleep when we we were living in Singapore in 2009. She was treated with antibiotics at the time and advised not to undertake rabies shots as Singapore is supposedly ‘rabies free’ and ‘rats don’t carry rabies’.

    I have since found a handful of journal articles confirming rabies cases traced back to rats. It has now started to niggle at me as I read the incubation can be up to 10years.

    Is it possible to undertake a rabies course, even thought the contact was nearly 5 years ago? Or/also is there a diagnostic test she could have to rule out the virus?

    Your reply would be very much appreciated.

    Kind regards,


    • Dr Deb says:

      HI Rebecca
      There is no diagnostic test , I would suggest you give your daughter a course of rabies vaccine as that will also cover her pre immunisation for any future travels she may have.
      Dr Deb

      • Rebecca says:

        Dear Dr Deb,

        Thank you for your prompt reply, especially so close to Christmas. Yes, I will give her a course of rabies vaccine.



  52. AL says:

    I came home of my friend two days ago, dog just touched his fur on my jeans, no scratched, no saliva on his fur (because it’s a hot day with sunlight) . I have no wound on my skin. But I’m still scared of rabies, do i need a shot? I’m searching hours on internet about rabies.

    Thanks for your time

    • Dr Deb says:

      HI Al,
      If there was no bite, there is no risk of rabies and you do not need vaccination
      Dr Deb

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