Warning as bats in Gympie region positive for lyssavirus
GYMPIE vets have warned pet owners to be vigilant in case one of their pets comes into contact with a flying fox carrying the deadly lyssavirus.
Lyssavirus is a form of rabies which killed former Sunshine Coast eight-year-old Lincoln Boucher on February 22.
While instances of lyssavirus are rare, the death rate is 100%.
It is transmitted through flying foxes and Lincoln was scratched by one about six months before he was taken to hospital with a fever.
The dangers of the virus being spread through a pet that has been bitten by a flying fox are uncertain.
Dr Shannon Coyne, from Gympie Vet Services, said yesterday there was a chance that a cat or dog that had been bitten by a flying fox could develop the disease and then pass it on.
"We have had a few dogs in contact with it," Dr Coyne said.
"None of the 5-6 bats we have sent in have tested positive that I am aware of.
"Bats from the Gympie region have tested positive however.
"Essentially, if the owners can bring in the bat which has scratched or bitten the pet we can send it off.
"It is important they are careful not to get scratched or bitten themselves.
"It may be better to call a wildlife carer who is vaccinated for rabies if an injured, agitated bat needs to be euthanised.
"If it is dead the sooner it is refrigerated the better.
"If a bat is positive the recommendations are vaccinate the dogs (post exposure vaccine course), euthanise the animal or observe it for up to two years for rabies-like signs with euthanasia recommended if any rabies signs are observed."
Sick flying foxes are more likely to be caught by pets and there is a chance the flying fox is sick because of lyssavirus.
It is easy to have the flying fox tested for lyssavirus and rule out any risk, but many pet owners aren't aware they should keep the flying fox and send it in for testing.
The vaccine, which costs around $300 over two injections, was appearing to be 100% effective with little to no side-effects.
WHAT should you do if your pet brings home a flying fox?
- Don't touch it under any circumstances.
- Pick it up with rubber gloves, put in a garbage bag and seal it off
- Place it in the fridge, not the freezer.
- The flying fox needs to be kept cool so it doesn't decompose
- If you don't want to put in the fridge, put it on a cooler brick but be sure the head is not on the cooler brick as this is the part that is tested.
- Contact your vet who will arrange for it to get send to the Biosecurity Laboratory in Brisbane
- Testing is free, you only have to pay for freight and results come back with 12 to 24 hours
- If you can't find the flying fox, get your pet vaccinated.