Australian bat Lyssavirus, first reported in mid-1996 from a Black Flying Fox Pteropus alecto has now been isolated from two other species of flying fox, a microbat and a human, who died of a rabies-like illness. Infected animals have been identified from widely separated localities in four Australian states. It is not known definitely from which species of animal the human victim contracted the disease, which is (are) responsible for spreading it. nor whether it is an old disease or one that has recently entered Australia.
The infectivity of Australian bat Lyssavirus to humans and other mammals is not known, but its close genomic and antigenic relationship to classical rabies virus suggest that it is likely to be capable of causing fatal illness in most mammalian species. Its similarity to classical rabies virus also indicates that humans and other mammals will be protected by existing rabies vaccines. The discovery of Lyssavirus in Australian bats has highlighted the need for professional and community groups involved with wild animals to work together to decrease the risks to human health and to lessen the impact on bats and other native species. Educating the public about the risks of contact with bats is the single most important safeguard in protecting humans from a bat-borne disease. Concurrently, people need to be informed of the important role of bats in maintaining biodiversity and ecosystem integrity to minimize public impact on bats.