TBQ President Basil Nolan has called on authorities to start culling flying foxes.
Nolan issued a press release following the death of two horses at Allora-based Highborne Farm last week. “The equine industry has now been rocked by two fatal bat-borne diseases in Hendra Virus and Lyssavirus,” he said. “When will enough be enough?”
Nolan acknowledged there is no evidence, at this stage, that shows transfer from horses infected with lyssavirus to humans, as the Allora outbreak is the first of its kind in the world.
“I don’t want the bats wiped out,” Nolan explained. “But they do need to be managed more adequately, they are putting lives at risk unnecessarily.”
While the vet and staff from Highborne wore personal protective equipment and have since been vaccinated against rabies, they now have an anxious six month wait before they can be given the final all-clear.
Highborne Farm has been quarantined while the remaining 20 horses there undergo testing for the virus.
Nolan is aware his calls will create a storm of controversy, as was the case when he called for bat culling during the height of the Hendra Virus crisis three years ago. “I’ll wear the criticism,” he said. “The cut and dry of it is these bats are a pest and are dangerous and it’s time action was taken.”
Biosecurity Queensland is trying to determine how the two paddocked yearlings contracted the virus, which is usually spread through contaminated saliva via biting.
While there is a bat colony at Allora, suggestions have been raised that the virus may have been spread via stock feed, with an infected bat possibly dying during harvesting or production of the grain and transmitting the disease through the feed.
“All questions need to be answered urgently,” Nolan added. “In the meantime, we should start at the root of the problem and reduce bat populations.”
Nolan also pointed out that the TBA Research and Development Levy couldn’t be more timely. “People are critical of this proposed $10 levy, but when we see unexplained, fatal disease outbreaks like lyssavirus, it’s a very small price to pay.”