Calls for calm in Cairns over bat virus bite fears
A CAIRNS boy, fighting for his life after contracting the deadly lyssavirus, last night remained critically ill in a coma.
Authorities said the eight-year-old was in a critical but stable condition in the intensive care unit of a Brisbane hospital.
The boy is believed to have contracted the bat-borne virus after being scratched or bitten by a bat while on holidays in the Whitsundays two months ago.
A Queensland Health spokeswoman yesterday confirmed Cairns Base Hospital was among the state's hospitals to receive extra supplies of a rabies vaccine and immunoglobulin.
The spokeswoman said the boy's relatives and hospital staff had not shown any symptoms of the disease, which is closely related to rabies.
Bat Conservation and Rescue Queensland president Louise Saunders said only .005 per cent of healthy flying foxes carried the disease, with that number rising to 6 per cent when the animals were sick.
"It's extremely rare and preventable as long as people wash the wounds for five minutes under water with soap and then go to their (medical) practitioner," she said.
Meanwhile, Mayor Bob Manning has moved to allay community fears surrounding the 20,000-strong flying fox colony in the Cairns CBD, saying it posed a nuisance rather than a health threat.
"I am not a supporter of bats being there but this should not start a panic attack," he said.
"I accept it could be a concern in the eyes of some people but it's most unlikely given the fact it's not a close interaction we have there."
In November, Cr Manning was defeated by a majority of his councillors who voted not to seek approval for cutting down a large fig tree outside the Abbott St library nor support the Novotel Oasis resort owners doing the same outside the hotel.
Cr Manning said the colony, which arrived in the CBD in 2003, had been allowed to grow from several hundred to its current population of about 20,000.
But Ms Saunders said removing the colony would just force the flying foxes to a nearby school or suburb.
More than half the respondents to The Cairns Post State of the Far North reader survey supported the culling of flying foxes in populated areas.
About a quarter of respondents supported a "leave and let live" approach to the colony, while 20 per cent wanted the animals to be relocated to a wild location.
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Carer: Bat Conservation and Rescue's Louise Saunders.