Vet Vicki Barker from All Animal Veterinary Services in Nambour, pictured with her cavoodle dog Lillee, warns people to be vigilant if pets display signs of a bat bite.
Vet Vicki Barker from All Animal Veterinary Services in Nambour, pictured with her cavoodle dog Lillee, warns people to be vigilant if pets display signs of a bat bite. Iain Curry

Vet warns of deadly lyssavirus following death

A VET has warned pet owners to be vigilant in case one of their animals comes into contact with a flying fox as it may carry the deadly lyssavirus.

Dr Vicki Barker, from All Animals Veterinary Services at Nambour, said while instances of lyssavirus was rare, the death rate was 100%.

Lyssavirus is a form of rabies which killed former Sunshine Coast eight-year-old Lincoln Boucher on February 22.

"If you develop the disease you basically die," Dr Barker said.

Lyssavirus is transmitted through flying foxes and Lincoln was scratched by one about six months before he was taken to hospital with a fever.

The danger of the virus being spread through a pet that has been bitten by a flying fox is uncertain.

Dr Barker said there was a chance that a cat or dog which had been bitten by a flying fox may develop the disease and then pass it on.

"A few months ago a horse tested positive for lyssavirus," Dr Barker said.

She said people should know what to do if their pet drags in a sick or dead flying fox.

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 are not aware they should do this.

"I had a dog owner a few weeks ago who called the biosecurity hotline and she wasn't advised to keep the flying fox and send it in for testing,'' Dr Barker said.

"Once they know the flying fox hasn't got lyssavirus, it is the end of the story.

"If it has, then the pet can be vaccinated or be put down."

The vaccine, which costs around $300 over two injections, appears to be 100% effective with few to no side-effects, Dr Barker said.

"More awareness will make it easier," she said.



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