Australia is listed as Rabies free. This is true to an extent – Rabies virus has never been detected in a dog or any other terrestrial mammal.
However, this claim is not completely true. The fact is – there is Rabies in Australia and it goes under the name Lissa Virus.
Lissa virus is Rabies. It is carried by a large proportion of Australian bats – both insectivores and fruit eating bats (‘flying foxes’). A bite from a Lissa virus infected bat can transmit Rabies to a human. A number of humans have died in Australia from Rabies picked up from a bat bite.
The kind of ‘creative disease concealment’ might be good for the tourism industry but it breeds a dangerous kind of confidence. many people, even people working with bats, don’t know the risks. The other concern is that if (when!) the virus get into the dog population, the country will be completely unprepared.
So as much as it hurts me to burst the bubble – I think it’s time we admit that Australia is not Rabies free.