Lives at risk in flying fox invasion

Ingham flying fox invasion diverts emergency helicopter

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Hinchinbrook Mayor Ramon Jayo and Biodiversity Australia operations manager and senior ecologist Karl Robertson with Hinchinbrook MP Nick Dametto, inspecting a flying fox roost at the back of the Ingham Botanical Gardens.

Hinchinbrook Mayor Ramon Jayo and Biodiversity Australia operations manager and senior ecologist Karl Robertson with Hinchinbrook MP Nick Dametto, inspecting a flying fox roost at the back of the Ingham Botanical Gardens.

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Emergency helicopters have been unable to land at Ingham Hospital three times in the last year due to a flying fox invasion in the town.

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EMERGENCY helicopters have been unable to land at Ingham Hospital three times in the last year due to a flying fox invasion in the town.

The latest incident happened on Thursday, when the Rescue 521 helicopter was diverted from Ingham Hospital to Ingham Aerodrome to collect a patient.

A Queensland Health spokeswoman confirmed the aeromedical transfer in Ingham yesterday afternoon was delayed due to a number of issues, including bats, bad weather and the patient's condition.

He was eventually transferred to Townsville Hospital where he is in a stable condition.

Hinchinbrook MP Nick Dametto said it was the third time in 12 months that the chopper had been unable to land at the hospital and said the situation was endangering lives.

"This was the third time in the last 12 months. It was diverted to Ingham aerodrome, which is 3.5km across town," Mr Dametto said.

"The important thing in an emergency is that every second counts.

"It is showing complete contempt for the district, if this was happening in the middle of Brisbane the bats would have been moved on."

Queensland Health has also moved to allay fears of residents living in the town, saying that while bats and flying foxes may carry bacteria and viruses which can be harmful to humans, the risk of infection is low.

"Australian bat lyssavirus (ABLV) is a virus that can be spread to humans by the saliva of infected bats when the saliva comes in contact with mucous membranes or broken skin, or through bat bites or scratches," the spokeswoman said.

"ABLV is related, but NOT identical to the rabies virus.

"People who are not trained and vaccinated should not handle bats.

"There is no evidence that ABLV can be spread from bat and flying foxes faeces (droppings) or urine to humans.

"However, as with any contact with animal droppings or urine, people should practice good hygiene. Hands should always be washed with soap and water after contact with bat urine or droppings."

It comes as children prepare to return to school on Tuesday, with parents deciding whether or not it was safe to send their children back to Ingham State School while the infestation remains close to the school grounds.

Industrial cleaners have been enlisted to help clean the school grounds in response to the parent's concerns.

Trees in the area will also be trimmed back and an alternative walkway to enter the premises will be marked out.

The Department of Environment and Science has also agreed to assist council with a proposed project to investigate whether the flying-foxes roosting in the Ingham Botanic Gardens could be relocated to another site away from the town centre.

Mr Dametto said he had met with experts from Biodiversity Australia, who have 18 years experience and a proven track record of flying fox dispersal plans.

"The information presented to us indicates they have the technology and methodology to move and relocate the flying fox roost," Mr Dametto said.

"We are waiting for them to come back to us with a strategy and plan of where to try to push them and options for relocation of the roost.

"We have rainforest all around us in the Hinchinbrook, there's no shortage of options."

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