Rabid bat discovered in Carson
June 15, 2007
Three people – one adult and two children – are receiving medical treatment in case they’ve contracted rabies after coming in contact with a bat that tested positive for the disease, according to Carson City Health and Human Services.
“They found the bat in their garage,” said Dustin Boothe, an epidemiologist with the city.
Rabies affects the central nervous system, the brain and spinal cord, and is fatal without quick and proper treatment. It affects humans and other mammals, wild and domestic.
It’s common knowledge that people get rabies from the bite of an infected animal, but exposure to the disease is also possible through other forms of contact. For example, you can be exposed if infected saliva or tissue containing rabies gets into a fresh wound – one that has bled within 24 hours – or in the eyes, nose or mouth, Boothe said.
People also need to consider other skin conditions, such as dry, cracked skin or blisters, as potential entry sites for rabies, he warned.
“Bats have small, sharp teeth that may not leave a visible puncture wound or noticeable pain at the bite site,” Boothe said. “It is possible to be bitten by a bat and not realize it.”
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Seek medical attention if you awaken and see a bat in your home, or if you have had any physical contact with a bat. People who find bats in their homes should contact Animal Services. Do the same if your pet or another domestic animal has been bitten by a bat, he emphasized.
Most recent human rabies cases in the United States have been caused by bats, though all mammals are potential carriers, according to Boothe and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Rabies vaccine and immune globulin, the latter to ward off infection and help weaken the virus, are provided as first treatment. Obtaining medical attention quickly and obtaining all of the treatment – several shots over about a monthlong timespan – is crucial for the person to recover, Boothe said.
“Hygiene is important,” he said.
Anyone who believes they have been bitten by a bat should wash the wound with soap and water for at least five minutes, and seek immediate medical attention.
The people who found the bat Monday but didn’t contact the city until Tuesday, when it was removed by health officials. It was taken to the Nevada Department of Agriculture in Reno for rabies testing and the positive results came back to the city late Wednesday.
The city conducted initial medical care and will continue treating the three until they complete all the necessary follow-up shots.
More people are setting bat cages to attract the animals because they like to feed on insects and help pollinate plants, which might be why the animals are sometimes entering homes. While bats have a purpose for existing in nature, they can be dangerous, Boothe warned.
Another good piece of advice is to not “touch any animals you don’t know – dead or alive,” Boothe added.
People with questions about bats or rabies can contact Health and Human Services at 887-2190. State law limits the amount of information government agencies can provide about victims.
What to do
Carson City Health and Human Services urges the following precautions regarding rabies:
• Maintain current rabies vaccinations on all dogs and cats once they are four months old.
• Confine all pets or keep them on a leash.
• All people, especially children, are warned to avoid all sick or injured animals.
• All stray or wild animals should be avoided, particularly skunks and bats observed during the day.
• Report all animal bites or scratches that break the skin or any physical contact with bats, whether or not bitten, to Carson City Animal Services at 887-2171.
• Contact reporter Terri Harber at tharber @nevadaappeal.com or 882-2111, ext. 215.