Phoenix Health Officials Alert Residents after Discovery of Rabid Bats
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By David E. Hubler
Contributor, EDM Digest
Health officials in Phoenix, Arizona, are warning area residents to keep their distance from bats. The warning follows the recent discovery of two rabid bats, the East Valley Tribune reported on Monday.
One of the rabid bats was found in a Costco parking lot in North Phoenix. The other was found in the suburb of Glendale. Two people in those locations are receiving rabies shots because they touched the bats.
Four Rabid Animals Reported to Maricopa County Health Officials in Last Six Months
The two discoveries bring to four the number of rabid animals reported to county health officials in the last six months. A rabid bat was found earlier in the town of Gilbert and a rabid fox was found at Apache Lake.
Health Hazards of Rabid Bats and How to Avoid Infection
Rabies is a virus that infects the central nervous system, including the spinal cord and brain and is nearly always fatal once symptoms appear.
“Never, never, never touch bats is a good rule of thumb to follow,” Craig Levy, epizoologist for the Maricopa County Department of Public Health, told the East Valley Tribune. “Any bat on the ground is more likely to be rabid.”
“Anyone who has had direct contact with a bat or other wild animals – especially foxes, skunks and bobcats – should seek medical attention right away,” health officials advise. Receiving the appropriate rabies vaccine and treatment promptly after exposure is 100 percent effective in preventing rabies.
A series of shots will prevent the infection from taking hold, the Mayo Clinic advises. “Once a rabies infection is established, there's no effective treatment. Though a small number of people have survived rabies, the disease is usually fatal,” the medical center added.
Rabies shots include:
- A fast-acting shot (rabies immune globulin) to prevent the virus from infecting you. Part of this injection is given near the area where the animal bit you, as soon as possible after the bite.
- A series of rabies vaccines to help your body learn to identify and fight the rabies virus. Rabies vaccines are given as injections in your arm. You receive four injections over 14 days.
“If you find a bat on the ground, don’t touch it. Report the bat and its location to your local animal control officer or health department,” the Maricopa Public Health Department advised. “If a person or pet has come into contact with a bat, it will need to be tested for rabies.” So it’s important to report the incident immediately to animal control or health officials.
Rabid Animals May Display Signs of Unusual, Aggressive Behavior
Rabid animals may show unusual, sometimes aggressive behavior; they will show no fear of humans or family pets. Rabid animals also might appear unstable when they are walking or running or moving in and around swimming pools. Seeing nocturnal animals such as bats during daylight hours is another sign that the animals could be infected with rabies.
In order to capture a suspected bat for testing, Maricopa County animal control specialists say to carefully place a box over the bat to contain it. “Be careful not to damage the bat in any way, since it must be intact for rabies testing.”
Campers are advised not to sleep on the open ground. Instead, they should stay in a closed tent or camper. Don’t disturb roosting bats, which usually appear after nightfall.
Arizona’s Department of Health Services reports that Maricopa ranked third among all state counties for the number of rabid creatures found last year. In all, 155 rabid animals were found – more than half of them bats, followed by skunks and foxes.