A family at Innisfail here in far north Queensland faces an anxious wait over the next few weeks – after their son was bitten by a microbat on Monday night. Nicholas Shale was bitten in his bedroom – and has begun a course of injections to protect him from rabies.
His mother Sam is understandably worried – and has called for the Queensland Government to move bats away from suburban areas. Sam Shale says she’s been assured her son will be fine, but asks how certain doctors can be of that. She had just seen TV news reports of a Cairns boy who contracted lyssavirus from a bat bite. Sam Shale takes issue with scientists who say bats should be protected.
The debate about bat control is not new. Bats are an important part of our eco-system, but they can carry potentially deadly diseases like rabies, lyssavirus and Hendra virus. That possibility has some folk believing bats should be moved away, maybe even destroyed. But many believe we can live safely alongside bat populations. Jenny Maclean knows a lot about bats, from her work running the Tolga Bat Hospital. Jenny leads a team of volunteers who rescue and care for sick and injured bats at the hospital on the Atherton Tablelands, west of Cairns. Jenny concedes microbats can carry dangerous diseases, but she says transmission to humans is rare. Listen to Jenny Maclean explain what a microbat is, and what to do if you find one in your home.