Health officials are urgently searching for four children south of Brisbane after they were seen playing with a bat potentially infected with lyssavirus — a deadly virus that can be transmitted from bats to humans.
West Moreton Health said it held concerns for the children, believed to be primary school age, who were seen playing with the bat at Nerima Gardens in Queens Park, Ipswich, on Saturday, February 3rd, about 10am.
Witnesses reported the bat was sick and showed symptoms of lyssavirus.
Watch the latest news and stream for free on 7plus >>
Tests on bats in the area confirmed they were carrying the potentially fatal virus, according to health authorities.
“We’re appealing to the community to identity four children,” chief executive of West Moreton Hospital and Health Service Hannah Bloch said.
“It’s an unusual step for us to go to the community (for help), but other ways of identifying the children haven’t been successful.”
Bloch said it was important that parents “don’t wait for symptoms” and “reach out early” if they think their children have been exposed to the virus.
Tests on bats in the ipswich area confirmed they were carrying a potentially fatal virus, according to health authorities. Credit: Getty Images
“We don’t want to cause panic, but it is important that we identify these children,” she said.
Public health physician for West Morton Health Dr Penny Hutchinson said lyssavirus is a “very similar” virus to the rabies virus and that the symptoms were the same.
“The reason we are so concerned is that this virus can be transferred from bats to people,” Hutchinson said.
“This is a potentially fatal disease if not picked up before the symptoms develop.”
Hutchinson warned the incubation period for the virus can be as short as five days, but commonly takes between five and eight weeks to develop.
However, in extreme cases, the virus has been known to lay dormant in the body for years.
Symptoms include pain or tenderness around the area infected, headaches, fevers, frothing at the mouth and seizures.
Only three people in Australia have ever contracted lyssavirus. In each case, it was fatal.
“It’s so important to get people treated,” Hutchinson said.