A CAIRNS boy, 8, was on holidays in the Whitsundays when he was bitten by a fruit bat sent mad by the rare but deadly lyssavirus.
Three weeks ago the schoolboy started to show symptoms of the rabies-like disease with fits, fever, and brain inflammation, Cairns Post reports.
Today, the child is fighting for his life in a coma in a critical condition in intensive care at a Brisbane hospital.
Doctors believe the boy was bitten by the bat carrying lyssavirus that has claimed two lives in Queensland in recent years while on holidays in the Whitsundays two-and-a-half months ago.
His devastated family are "distressed" and holding a hospital bedside vigil but none have shown any symptoms of the disease.
"He's critically unwell," Queensland's Chief Health Officer Dr Jeannette Young said yesterday. "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."
nimrods It is only the third confirmed case of Australian Bat Lyssavirus (ABVL) in Australia. All three have been in Queensland.
Queensland bat handler Patricia Padget, 39, became the world's first victim of the lyssavirus on November 15, 1996.
The Rockhampton woman - a mother of four - died of encephalitis (brain inflammation) after she was scratched by a bat she was caring for.
The virus can have an incubation period of two years or more.
Mother-of-two Monique Todhunter, the second known victim died in 1998.
She had reportedly been bitten while protecting a child from an attacking bat at a backyard barbecue in Mackay, in Queensland's north.
Latest figures show 10 out of 18 applications for lethal Damage Mitigation Permits to shoot flying foxes have been approved - for a total quota of 10,850 bats - on farms from Cairns in the north to Somerset region in the south.
Federal MP Bob Katter said it was time for a wholesale bat cull.
"This is a ticking time bomb," he said.
"It is time to put the quality of life of people first before bats."
Worldwide there are about 55,000 cases of rabies each year, with just six known survivors in history.
Read more at the Cairns Post.