Call to spare Maclean bats

AN attack in Queensland on three men by a flying fox carrying the potentially deadly lyssavirus this week may fuel the controversial flying fox debate in the Lower Clarence.

The men were all attacked around the head in the town of Agnes Waters in Queensland on Tuesday. They have been offered preventative treatment by Queensland Health after the bat was killed and it tested positive to the rabies-like virus.

Clarence flying fox expert Billie Roberts said that hopefully this ‘extremely unusual’ incident would not ramp up the anti-bat campaign for those wanting to shift the colony at Maclean. She maintained that it is still possible to have a human population next to a bat colony.

“The chance of coming across a bat that is actually infected by the Australian bat lyssavirus is very low,” she said.

“It is estimated that less than one per cent of the entire flying-fox population carry lyssavirus at any one time,” Ms Roberts said.

She said that since preventative treatment had been implemented in lyssavirus cases following two deaths in 1996 and 1998, no humans had contracted the virus.

“Post-exposure treatment (if a similar incident as this week’s occurred) would be available in 24 hours and it should be noted that nobody who has had the full preventative treatment has developed the infection or died of the infection,” Ms Roberts said.

“Although the risk is low, we recommend that people do not handle bats and if they come across a bat on the ground or hanging low they should contact their local wildlife care organisation, and not approach the animal or attempt to capture the bat as occurred recently in Queensland resulting in three men being bitten,” Ms Roberts said.

Maclean resident Nathan Sweeney, who lives opposite the Country Energy substation and bat colony, believes even a small threat is enough to warrant dispersing the colony.

“Obviously they pose a threat and I don’t want my daughter, who has to walk underneath the bats every day from school, to get bitten,” Mr Sweeney said.

If someone is bitten or scratched they should contact the State Health Department, as a vaccination has been developed to combat the possibility of contracting the virus.

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