Tularaemia is an infection caused by the bacteria Francisella tularensis. It is commonly found in a range of wildlife species across the northern hemisphere but, until recently, was believed to be absent from Australian wildlife.
Different subspecies of tularaemia vary in their virulence. A single case of Francisella tularensis novicida was reported in a human in the Northern Territory in 2003. In 2011, two separate cases of F. t. holarctica biovar japonica were diagnosed in two women who had a history which included being scratched and/ or bitten by common ringtail possums in western Tasmania. Testing of a small number of possums from western Tasmania and other areas did not reveal evidence of tularaemia.
In September 2016, tularaemia was detected for the first time in Australian animals, following Next Generation molecular analysis of archived samples, collected from two separate clusters of common ringtail possum deaths that had occurred in NSW in 2002 and 2003. Findings of F. t. holarctica were confirmed by PCR and were found to be genomically very similar to that found in the 2011 Australian human cases. For more information see the following links:
NSW DPI - Tularaemia
WHA Fact Sheet - Tularaemia and Australian wildlife
National Guidelines for Sample Submission – Tularaemia – Diagnostic Testing
Zika virus is a viral disease spread by mosquitoes. It first appeared in 1947 in Africa, originating from non human primates. In humans it has caused sporadic disease in tropical areas inhabited by the mosquito vector (Aedes aegypti). In recent times, outbreaks of the disease have been seen in the Pacific and now in Brazil and other countries of South America. In humans, most infections are asymptomatic but around 20% of people may develop mild and short lived clinical signs. Recently Zika virus infection in humans has been linked to auto-immune disease and microcephaly in babies. Only a handful of imported cases have been reported in humans in Australia, although the vector mosquito occurs in parts of Queensland. There is no evidence that Australian wildlife are involved in the epidemiology of Zika virus. For more information see the following links:
Department of Health - Zika Factsheet - the Basics
Queensland Health - Zika virus
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [USA] - Zika Virus
A severe mortality event involving Bellinger River Snapping Turtles (Myuchelys georgesi) was investigated after dead and dying turtles were reported in February 2015. Over 430 turtles are estimated to have been affected with clinical signs including swollen eyes, blindness, emaciation, clear nasal discharge and hind limb paresis, and a very high case fatality rate. Diagnostic investigation was conducted by multiple agencies and organisations. A wide range of potential infectious aetiologies were excluded by laboratory testing and no evidence of pesticides was found in river water samples.
[This is a summary of the report in Animal Health Surveillance Quarterly, Volume 20, Issue 3]
NSW DPI – Bellinger River Snapping Turtle Response
Bellingen Shire Council – Bellinger River Snapping Turtles – Latest News
Zhang J et al (2018) Identification of a novel nidovirus as a potential cause of large-scale mortalities in the endangered Bellinger River snapping turtle (Myuchelys georgesi). PLoS ONE 13(10): e0205209.
Spencer RJ et al (2018) Profiling a possible rapid extinction event in a long-lived species. Biological Conservation, 221, 190-197.
Chessman BC et al (2020) On a razor's edge: Status and prospects of the critically endangered Bellinger River snapping turtle, Myuchelys georgesi. Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems, 30(3), 586-600.
One adult and three juvenile grey-headed flying foxes rescued from a NSW Central Coast flying fox roost on 9 November 2015 have tested positive for Australian bat lyssavirus. A NSW CVO Bulletin to Wildlife Carers has been issued.
Additional information for NSW can be found at the end of the CVO Bulletin. Links to ABLV information in other jurisdictions are available on the WHA Resources (Expand 'Diseases and disease agents’ in the Categories list, select 'Australian Bat Lyssavirus’ and look for ‘Australian Bat Lyssavirus Resources’ for your state/territory).
NSW DPI - Pigeon paramyxovirus and Veterinary testing
Agriculture Victoria - Pigeon paramyxovirus - information for veterinarians
DPIPWE Tasmania - Avian paramyxovirus in pigeons
PIRSA South Australia - Pigeon paramyxovirus
DPIRD Western Australia - Pigeon paramyxovirus
DAF Queensland - Avian paramyxovirus in pigeons
WHA fact sheet - Avian paramyxoviruses and Australian wild birds
Mass mortality and morbidity events involving kangaroos occur across a number of states and territories, in some cases with a seasonal occurrence. Investigation may reveal a primary cause, although these events are often multifactoral in nature. Examples include:
Plant toxicity – AHSQ Vol 19 Issue 2 & AHSQ Vol 20 Issue 4
Starvation – AHSQ Vol 20 Issue 3
Parasitism – AHSQ Vol 19 Issue 3
Other/unidentified causes – AHSQ Vol 15 Issue 2 & AHSQ Vol 19 Issue 1
WHA Fact Sheet - Mortalities of large macropods
Information on Hendra virus incidents, on how to minimise the risk of horses becoming infected with Hendra virus and ongoing research into this virus are available from the following websites:
NSW DPI - information on Hendra Virus
Queensland DAF - Information on Hendra Virus