An eight-year-old boy is in a coma after catching the Bat Lyssavirus - only the third ever confirmed case in Australia.
The boy was bitten or scratched by a bat in north Queensland about two and half months ago but his parents did not know about it at the time, according to Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young.
Dr Young said the case was ‘‘very sad’’ and the boy is in a coma in a Brisbane hospital with the outlook quite grim.
‘‘He’s critically unwell, the previous two cases did not survive and the vast, vast majority of people who contract rabies overseas die,’’ she said.
‘‘Very few people survive unfortunately.
‘‘But we only have had three cases in Queensland so it is hard to say [what the boy’s survival chances are].’’
It is not known if the boy was bitten or scratched as he did not tell his parents about the contact with the bat when it happened and is now too sick to say what happened.
He began having fits about three weeks ago in north Queensland and was eventually diagnosed with Bat Lyssavirus which is similar to rabies.
His family have been keeping a bedside vigil and have all been offered medication for potential exposure to the virus.
‘‘This is an extraordinarily difficult and distressing time for the family,’’ Dr Young said.
It is only the third confirmed case of Bat Lyssavirus in Australia so far, with the other two diagnosed in Queensland in the 1990s.
In the earlier cases, both patients died.
It can take years for Bat Lyssavirus to show symptoms in patients and Dr Young urged anyone who had been bitten or scratched to seek medical attention, even if the incident was years ago.
She did not specify where in north Queensland the boy contracted the virus saying it would be ‘‘harmful’’ for people to think just because they are not in the area they do not need to go to a doctor for a bat scratch or bite.
‘‘It doesn’t make any difference,’’ she said.
‘‘We have bats, both flying foxes and bats, that live throughout Queensland and indeed most of Australia, and any bat or flying fox can actually carry a strain of the Bat Lyssavirus.
‘‘So the message is really, you shouldn’t handle any bat, there is no specific reason to be concerned about the bats in north Queensland.’’
Theoretically the virus can be passed from human to human but is extremely rare.