Iluka mum backs bat testing
By SALLY GORDON
ILUKA mother Marissa Everson says she fully supports a call from the Queensland Nationals to test bat colonies living near suburban areas for potentially fatal diseases.
Mrs Everson has a home in Iluka's Cave Street, where residents live alongside thousands of noisy flying foxes that have set up camp in riverbank mangroves.
The mother-of-two said she was concerned about the health and safety of her children, particularly because they lived so close to the bat colony.
Pat Shepherd from the Ratepayers Association of Iluka said the group also would throw its support behind any calls for mandatory testing of bats for diseases. The push for testing from Queensland's opposition environment spokesperson, Rob Messenger, follows a new case of the potentially deadly bat-borne Hendra virus on the Sunshine Coast.
The disease caused the death of a pet horse just over two weeks ago.
Two people, including the horse's owner and a veterinarian, are awaiting the results of tests to to see if they have contracted the virus. Hendra is thought to be spread to horses by the droppings of flying foxes.
Mrs Everson said she had raised concerns about health issues at a public meeting regarding the bats, held earlier this year at Iluka.
The Cave Street resident yesterday agreed the news of the Hendra virus was a concern, considering trails of bat droppings covered everything outside her home.
"If they're flying east and they're going over the top of your house, it sounds like it's raining on your roof," she said.
North Coast Area Health Service director of public health, Paul Corben, said the only documented cases of Hendra virus in humans were in people associated with sick horses.
He said since health authorities first discovered the disease in 1994 there had been two human deaths, both of which were linked to horses.
"If the virus is ingested by the horse or injected into the horse it could make the horse ill, but it's not really clear how the humans became ill. If people don't wash their hands after dealing with sick animals it's possible their hands can be contaminated," Mr Corben said.
National Parks and Wildlife Service spokesperson Lawrence Orel said advice from the Department of Health was that people who had been scratched or bitten by a bat were at risk.
"We've consistently advised people not to handle bats," Mr Orel said.