Child Bit by Rabid Bat in Liberty Lake Regional Park; Spokane Regional Health District Officials Urge Caution

For more information, contact Kim Papich, SRHD Public Information Officer (509) 324-1539
SPOKANE, Wash. – July 8, 2015 – Washington State Public Health Laboratories confirmed this week that a bat, which bit a child on July 4 at Liberty Lake Regional Park, 3707 S. Zephyr Rd., tested positive for rabies. The child and the mother, who was not bit but who had contact with the bat, are both currently receiving vaccines for rabies. Prompt administration of this treatment is highly effective in preventing rabies following exposure.
The location of the recent incident was near the marshy area on the south side of the park’s designated swimming beach. The bat was captured, without human contact, a short time after the incident by a separate unidentified group at a nearby picnic table. Although it is not believed these people came into contact with the bat, as a precaution, health officials urge them to contact Spokane Regional Health District’s (SRHD’s) Zoonotic Disease program at (509) 324-1560 ext. 7. Anyone at the park between 3:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m. who may have had direct contact with a bat should also contact Zoonotic Disease staff.
“We are being cautious in making absolutely sure that no one was potentially exposed to this bat,” said Dr. Joel McCullough, SRHD health officer. “If a person did not have direct contact with the bat, he or she is not at risk for rabies.” 
Rabies is a preventable disease caused by a virus that people and other mammals can get through the bite of a rabid animal. It is almost always fatal without proper treatment with vaccines soon after exposure. Although rare, transmission may also occur if the saliva from a rabid animal comes in contact with a person’s eyes, nose, mouth or open wound. Symptoms of rabies in people can take weeks to months to develop after exposure to a rabid animal.
The primary animals that carry rabies in the northwest United States are bats, but less than 1 percent of all bats in the wild are infected with rabies. Rabid bats have been found in almost every county in Washington. This is the first report of a rabid bat in Spokane County since 2007.
This recent situation prompted public health officials to warn people across the county to take precautions around bats. Preventing rabies is as simple as avoiding contact with wild animals, educating those at risk, and ensuring adequate pet vaccination and supervision.
Continued Dr. McCullough, “Although most bats are harmless and do not carry rabies, people should never handle live or dead bats. To protect yourself and your loved ones, your safest bet is to simply presume that every bat is rabid.”
People usually come into contact with bats when pets bring them home, when a bat gets into a home through small openings or open windows, or when they wake up to find a bat in their room and they cannot confirm if they were bit in their sleep. If the health district determines that an exposure to a person or pet might have occurred, a bat should, with proper precautions, be tested for rabies. There is no need to test bats that have not come into contact with people or pets.
Rabid animals may show unusual behavior or appear unstable and may become aggressive and attempt to bite people, pets and livestock.
To protect yourself and your pets, SRHD offers these tips:

  • If a person:
    • Has contact with a bat,
    • Finds a bat in the home, or
    • Wakes up to find a bat in his or her room

They should:

  1. wash any bite or wound with soap and water
  2. contact their doctor, clinic or emergency room
  3. contact Spokane Regional Health District Zoonotic Disease program (509) 324-1560 ext.7
  4. safely capture the bat, if possible. Use heavy leather gloves, a heavy towel, or tongs. Put it in a can and cover with a tight lid. Do not damage the head of the bat because the brain is needed for testing.
  • Never touch a bat with bare hands, even a dead one.
  • Do not disturb resting (“roosting”) bats.
  • Always vaccinate pets—even indoor pets could be exposed to rabies if a bat gets into a home. Household pets and other animals can be exposed to the virus by playing with sick bats that can no longer fly normally.
  • Bat-proof homes and cabins by plugging all holes in the siding and maintaining tight-fitting screens on windows.
  • Parents should teach their children to avoid bats and to let an adult know if they find one.
  • 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.

For more information on rabies in Spokane County, go to Statewide information is available on the Washington State Department of Health website here, and national information on the U.S. Centers for Disease Prevention and Control web page located here. SRHD’s Epidemiology program is also available for consultation at (509) 324-1442.
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