Colin Boucher says he wouldn’t have been able to prevent his son’s slow and cruel death even if he had known the eight-year-old had been bitten by a bat.
The shocking realisation is driving the North Queensland father to raise awareness about the deadly bat-borne lyssavirus, a close relative of the common rabies virus.
“I didn’t know anything about it,” he told AAP.
“Even if Lincoln told us he had been bitten by a bat, I would have just washed the bite and put disinfectant on it.”
Mr Boucher fears other parents would do the same in a similar situation so, on World Rabies Day, is urging Australians to better understand lyssavirus.
Mr Boucher and Lincoln’s mum, Michelle Flynn, didn’t know the disease existed until it was killing their son.
He developed violent seizures about two months after he was scratched by a bat in a random attack at Long Island.
Had the virus been identified earlier, a course of post-rabies vaccine would have saved Lincoln’s life.
“If we had known, we could have saved him,” Mr Boucher said.
“Lincoln’s passing should not be in vain – this should not happen to anyone else.”
Lincoln was just the third Australian known to die from the virus.
Despite the deaths, rabies expert Dr Deb Mills says there are still many misconceptions about the lyssavirus.
Dr Mills said many people mistakenly thought they could catch the virus from bat urine or faeces.
“The only way you can get it is if you are bitten or scratched by a bat,” she said.
“If you are scratched it is ok – you just need to know what to do and that’s to wash the wound with warm soapy water and seek a course of rabies vaccine.”
Lyssavirus is present in all flying foxes, with a subtype also found in insectivorous bats prevalent across mainland Australia.
Dr Mills urged parents to use World Rabies Day, on September 28, to teach their children why it’s important to look at but not touch bats.
Mr Boucher and Ms Flynn are also in the latter stages of setting up a foundation in memory of their son to better educate Australians about lyssavirus.