While the focus of the Ebola crisis has been understandably on west Africa, there are risks closer to home that we must remain vigilant about.
The Ebola crisis in west Africa began when an unfortunate young boy came into contact with a fruit bat carrying the Ebola virus.
As a CSIRO researcher has stated: “Bats are the natural host species for Ebola and a variety of viruses, many of which can be fatal when transmitted to humans. More than 100 viruses have been identified in bats and this number is rising each year.”
Although there is no evidence that Australian fruit bats carry the Ebola virus, bats do carry several diseases fatal to humans and we must remain vigilant.
Bats in Australia are already known to carry Lyssavirus and Hendra virus. At least four people have died of Hendra virus, including a veterinarian here in Rockhampton, and an eight-year-old boy from Lyssavirus in Cairns.
We can't persist with the philosophy that the lives and habitats of diseased-ridden pests are more important than humans. Where communities want to cull or move these pests, they should be allowed, indeed encouraged, to do so.
The risks of having disease-carrying bats close to human populations are just too great. The Ebola crisis shows that those risks aren't just felt by towns like Charters Towers: they are global.
Instead, we make it ridiculously difficult for communities to take the necessary action. Charters Towers can't get a permit from CASA to move bats. Governments of all levels should remove this red tape so we can protect lives.
If Labor were serious about protecting Australians from bat-borne diseases, they would drop their Greens-inspired silence on the culling of bats instead of grandstanding about a crisis half a world away.