PRESS RELEASE – For Immediate Release
Contact: Jeanene Fowler, Public Health: 602-722-1806 (cell)
Audie Greybear, Animal Care and Control: 602-525-4780 (cell)
School-Aged Child Bitten by Rabid Bat
Public Health and Animal Care and Control Remind Residents about Bat Precautions
PHOENIX (Nov. 9, 2012) – The Arizona State Public Health Laboratory confirmed this week that a bat which bit a school-aged girl from the East Valley last weekend has tested positive for rabies. The child is currently receiving post-exposure prophylaxis for rabies and is expected to be okay.
“Although it does not appear that this child was playing with the bat, every year we have school-aged children who voluntarily come into contact with bats. It is important that parents and teachers remind students NEVER to touch a bat—dead or alive,” said Dr. Bob England, director of Maricopa County Department of Public Health.
This is the first rabid bat confirmed in Maricopa County in 2012. In 2011, Maricopa County had 5 rabid animals confirmed with rabies, including three bats, one bobcat, and one javelina; the fewest in more than 10 years.
Rabies is fatal to humans once symptoms appear. Anyone who has had contact with a bat should seek medical attention right away.
“Rabies is a prevalent disease in wildlife in Arizona and can affect pets and people. It is very important to keep your pet’s rabies vaccination current. Please contact your veterinarian to find out when the next rabies vaccination for your pet is due,” said Dr. Rodrigo Silva, director of Maricopa County Animal Care and Control.
In Arizona, rabies most commonly occurs in bats, skunks and foxes, but any mammal can contract the disease. Rabid animals may show unusual behavior or appear unstable. Rabid carnivores, such as skunks, foxes, bobcats and coyotes may become aggressive and may attempt to bite people, pets and livestock. Wild animals exhibiting unusual behavior should be reported to local animal control officials.
Examples of unusual behavior include: wild animals that show no fear of people and pets; nocturnal animals that are active in daylight; and bats found on the ground, in swimming pools or that have been caught by a pet.
Recommended precautions against rabies:
- Keep people and pets away from wild animals. Do not pick up, touch, or feed wild or unfamiliar animals, especially sick or wounded ones. If someone has been bitten or scratched, or has had contact with the animal, report it immediately to animal control or health officials.
- Do not “rescue” seemingly abandoned young wild animals. Usually, the mother will return. If the mother is dead or has not returned in many hours, call the Arizona Game and Fish Department.
- Spay or neuter your pets to help reduce the number of unwanted pets that may not be properly cared for or vaccinated regularly.
- Vaccinate all dogs and cats against rabies. Pets should be kept in a fenced yard.
- Take precautions when camping, hunting or fishing. Avoid sleeping on the open ground without the protection of a closed tent or camper. Keep pets on a leash and do not allow them to wander.
- Do not disturb roosting bats.
- 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. 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.
For more information about rabies in Maricopa County, please visit www.MCRabies.org.
Follow Maricopa County Public Health: www.Facebook.com/MCDPH or www.Twitter.com/MaricopaHealth.
For more info about Maricopa County Animal Care and Control, visit www.pets.maricopa.gov.