Please use below information as very crude guidelines only! For the most up-to-date professional information, please consult the links to Government sites at the bottom of this page.
In very rare cases, bats can carry the Australian Bat Lyssavirus (ABVL), which is closely related to the classical Rabies virus. Like rabies, ABLV can be transmitted from an infected, sick animal via a bite or a deep scratch and can cause a deadly disease if you are not vaccinated or treated in a timely manner, before symptoms occur. Due to its similarities, the Rabies vaccination also protects against ABLV and can either be given as a precautionary / pre-exposure vaccination or as post-exposure vaccination immediately after a bite or scratch has occurred. As bat carers, we need to take special precautions to prevent bites or scratches, but we also need to be vaccinated and have our titre levels tested regularly, to ensure we are fully protected. The titre level test is a blood test (Rabies Serology) that checks whether the vaccination has worked and that our body is producing enough antibodies to ensure protection. If you are already vaccinated against rabies, which is recommended when doing overseas travels, you only need to undergo a titre level test to ensure your titre is above a certain threshold. If you are not vaccinated against rabies, this would be the first step to take before you can become a hands-on bat carer.
For the initial vaccination process, three injections are necessary which are given over a period of 4 weeks, followed by an initial titre level test (blood test called ‘Rabies Serology’) 2 weeks after the thir injection, which confirms the success of the vaccination. Depending on your titre level, follow up titre testing will be required every year or every second year for as long as you are working as an active bat carer. The rabies vaccination can be obtained from any travel doctor or can be arranged via your GP at a cost of about AUD$100-150 per injection plus consultation fees and pathology fees for the titre level test.
Since every individual reacts differently to the vaccination, there are no black-and-white rules regarding the interval between the titre level tests. Some carers start with a very high titre level after their initial vaccination and their level is maintained over many years without any significant reduction. Others might only achieve an intermediate level after the initial vaccination and their level might drop considerably over time. Thus, when suggesting the due date for the next titre level test, the vaccination history of every individual needs to be taken into account. As a rule of thumb, we recommend annual titre testing for levels <4 and testing every second year for levels >4. The absolute minimum titre level to grant protection is 0.5. When your titre level comes close to or drops below this value, a booster vaccination will be necessary to bring your levels back up and to ensure you are protected. However, for many bat carers, titre levels stay well above the minimum level for many years.