An 8-year old boy from Cairns is currently fighting for his life at a Brisbane hospital after he was bitten by a fruit bat that was infected by the deadly lyssavirus.
The unnamed boy was on a holiday in the Whitsundays two and a half months ago when he was bitten or scratched by the bat. Three weeks later he started to display rabies-like symptoms, including fever, fits and brain inflammation and Queensland's Chief Health Officer Dr Jeannette Young said that the boy was critically unwell.
Bat lyssavirus has so far claimed two lives in Queensland during the recent years with the first death, bat handler Patricia Padget, occurring in 1996 while Monique Todhunter became the second victim in 1998. The parents of the boy are maintaining a vigil near his bedside and have been offered medication to counteract any potential exposure to the virus. Around 55,000 cases of rabies occur worldwide every year with just six survivors recorded in history.
"He's critically unwell. The previous two cases did not survive and the vast majority of people who contract rabies overseas die, unfortunately. We're not sure of the circumstances because the child is now too sick to tell us", Dr Young said.