Skip to main content
Vaccine Hub offers general information only. Please see a healthcare professional for medical advice.


Australia is free of rabies, as the virus does not occur in land-dwelling Australian animals. Australia does, however, have other similar viruses, which are found in bats.

Page last updated 18 January 2024

Rabies, which is a viral infection, is spread by the bite of an infected animal, domestic or wild, e.g. dog, fox, or bat. It is commonly found across many regions of the globe, including Africa, Asia, and the Americas. Travellers are encouraged to talk to their healthcare professional to determine if vaccination is advised, at least 4 weeks before they leave.

The rabies infection is almost always fatal once symptoms have begun. However, if a person has been bitten by a suspect animal, effective post-bite treatment can be given, which can reduce the probability of the infection taking hold.

For further information regarding vaccination against rabies, speak with your healthcare professional.

Commonly asked questions

What is rabies?

Rabies is an infection caused by a virus of the Lyssavirus family.

It infects the central nervous system and is almost always fatal. The early infection starts with flu-like symptoms, and rapidly progress to altered behaviours, coma, and death. Rabies is not found in Australia, however, it is still present in many areas of the world. In Australia, there have been a few reported deaths of a rabies-like virus contracted from bats.

How do you contract the rabies virus?

Rabies is spread by the bite or scratch of an animal, domestic or wild, e.g. dog, fox, monkey or bat.  Although people theoretically could spread the virus to one another via a bite, this has never been accurately reported.

Children are particularly at risk, because they are more likely to want to play with animals, and these animals may be infected with the disease. Because of their height, children are more vulnerable to high-risk bites to the face, head and neck. 


Is rabies contagious?

No. There have been no confirmed recorded cases of rabies transmission by a bite between people. 

However, there have been a very small number of cases of rabies transmission through organ transplantation, e.g. corneas or internal organs. 

What are the symptoms of rabies?

Rabies begins with an early phase of flu-like symptoms, e.g. cough, fever, and headache.

The majority of people who contract rabies develop the so-called “furious” form of the disease and will present with altered behaviour, including increased anxiety and hyperactivity, aerophobia (fear of drafts of air), hydrophobia (fear of water), and pain or tingling at the wound site. Cario-respiratory arrest leads to death after a few days.

“Paralytic” rabies occurs in the minority of cases and progresses more slowly, as muscles become paralysed, resulting in coma and death. 

Is rabies just an animal disease?

No. Rabies can infect any mammal, including humans, dogs, foxes, raccoons, and bats. 

Sources & Citations

  1. NSW Government Department of Health, Rabies and Australian bat lyssavirus infection fact sheet. Available at: (accessed 07 December 2021).
  2. Queensland Government. Business Queensland. Rabies. Available at: (accessed 07 December 2021).
  3. Australian Government Department of Health. The Australian Immunisation Handbook. Rabies and other lyssaviruses. Available at: (accessed 07 December 2021).
  4. Victorian Government Department of Health. Rabies and Australian bat lyssavirus. Available at: (accessed 07 December 2021).
  5. World Health Organisation. Rabies. Available at: (accessed 07 December 2021).
  6. World Health Organisation. Frequently asked questions about rabies for the General Public. Available at: (accessed 07 December 2021).
  7. World Health Organisation. Distribution of risk levels for humans contacting rabies, worldwide, 2013. Available at: (accessed 07 December 2021).
  8. healthdirect Australia. Rabies. Available at: (accessed 07 December 2021). 
  9. Australian Government Department of Health. National Immunisation Program Schedule. Available at: (accessed 16 November 2021).

MAT-AU-2102480   Date of preparation January 2022