Vaccinations rise following lyssavirus deaths

There has been a sharp rise in the number of lyssavirus vaccinations following the death of an eight-year-old boy who succumbed to the virus.
Almost 300 people have sought the vaccination, up over 100 per cent on the same period last year.
Lincoln Flynn was scratched by a flying fox about two months before becoming ill.
Health experts have recommended that anyone who suspects they may have been scratched or bitten by a bat in the last few years to be vaccinated against the virus, which is similar to rabies.
Lincoln is the third confirmed case in Australia, with the other two cases occurring in the 1990s.
James Cook University researcher Lee Skerratt, has warned against the stirring of public sentiment to cull large numbers of bats and flying foxes.
“People argue there’s an ecological consequence, that bats are really important for pollination and seed dispersal, but my job is to try and determine the factors that affect disease in populations and how to control them.”
Skerratt said culling of bat colonies will do nothing to eliminate diseases, and that it is a waste of resources and time.
“Scare campaigns lead to fear and misdirection of resources, and demanding vaccination campaigns ties up public health resources when funding and attention is better directed towards bat carers to deal with sick and injured bats.”
The three Australian fatalities were all likely bitten or scratched by an infected animal, and though there is speculation about rare aerosol transmissions, Skerratt said the chances are low.
“There’s uncertainty, but we’re confident there’s very low risk to no risk without being in direct contact with a bat that has the virus,” he said.
“Not touching a bat is the equivalent of stopping smoking to reduce your risk of smoking illness.”
Skerratt said post exposure treatment is highly effective, and it is only when there is delayed post exposure treatment that allows the virus to disturb the nervous system.
“The veterinary profession has a key role in helping the public understand how animal health overlaps with human and environmental health, so vets need to speak up about how best to control animal health issues,” he said.
“With something like Hendra virus, nobody says “let’s cull all the horses!”; Vets would not advocate that, nor would they for bats.”
In related news, Penshurst man Zdravko Kucinic has pleaded guilty to one charge of aggravated animal cruelty against a grey headed flying fox that was found buried in a back yard.
In January RSPCA inspectors investigated a report of a bat being beaten to death and buried.
A netted fig tree and various wooden planks were observed in the backyard, and the inspectors uncovered the body of the flying fox in a garden bed.
An autopsy conducted at Taronga Wildlife Hospital revealed that the combination of lesions within the animal’s body was consistent with acute traumatic injury.
Kucinic was interviewed by the RSPCA on February 5, and admitted to finding the flying fox entangled in the fig tree netting.
After attempting to free the animal he said he believed the animal to be near death and he began to hit it with a stick.
He ceased hitting the animal when it stopped screeching and moving and proceeded to bury it.
SAM WORRAD