Brushtail Possums with neurological symptoms

The Department is responding to a recent series of reported brushtail possum deaths in the Greater Hobart region.

The possums have presented with the following neurological signs:

  • Out in daylight hours
  • Docile and does not move when approached
  • Difficulty climbing or falling out of tree
  • Abnormal posture or gait
  • Tremors, head tilt or circling
  • Uncoordinated movement
  • Signs of visual impairment or blindness

These symptoms were consistent with Wobbly Possum Disease, previously only known from New Zealand.

As the first reports of the suspected disease were received, DPIPWE vets and Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary advised Biosecurity Tasmania and the Chief Veterinary Officer, who coordinated further testing of samples with the Australian Animal Health Laboratory (AAHL) which then organised virological confirmation in New Zealand.

The laboratory pathology findings performed by Biosecurity Tasmania’s Animal Health Laboratory suggested Wobbly Possum Disease.

Testing both in New Zealand and at AAHL has now confirmed the presence of nidovirus (the virus responsible for Wobbly Possum Disease in New Zealand brush tail possums) in the Tasmanian possum cases. Ongoing testing at AAHL is underway to characterise the virus using whole genome sequencing.

The following map shows the locations where Brushtail possums have been confirmed with Wobbly Possum Disease. This includes both the recent notifications and samples collected in 2016 that have since been confirmed using the new testing approach.

Confirmed Wobbly Possum disease confirmations - 2016 to present

At the national level there is a low level of concern as this is not a rapidly spreading disease and it does not affect livestock (food) or people.

We ask that all rehabilitators currently caring for brushtail possums observe the following points to reduce the risk of further spread of the disease:

  • Keep any new brushtail possums separate/quarantined from other brushtail possums;
  • Notify the Department if a brushtail possum in your care demonstrates any of the above symptoms;
  • Maintain handwashing procedures between animals and at the beginning and end of feeding and handling sessions; and
  • If you have any concerns that animals in your care may be affected, please call the Wildlife Management Branch (03) 6165 4305 or email  wildlife.reception@dpipwe.tas.gov.au


Contact

Wildlife Management Branch
200 Collins Street
GPO Box 44
HOBART TAS 7001
Phone: 03 6165 4305
Fax: 03 6173 0253
Email: wildlife.reception@dpipwe.tas.gov.au

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