2 students being evaluated for rabies after touching dead bats at Layton High

Thursday , September 28, 2017 - 10:41 AM

ANNA BURLESON, Standard-Examiner Staff

Editor’s note: Due to a source error, a previous version of this story misstated how many students are currently being evaluated for rabies and how many district officials believe may have been exposed to the disease. We apologize for the error. 

OGDEN — Two Layton High School students are being evaluated for rabies after touching dead bats, and school officials believe five others may have come into contact with the animals as well. 

Both students being evaluated have been taken to McKay-Dee Hospital, Davis School District spokesman Chris Williams said Thursday, Sept. 28. The first student taken in is receiving preventative shots in case of exposure, while the other isn’t yet, according to Dave Spence, deputy director of the Davis County Health Department.

The school district believes five other Layton High School students may have touched dead bats, an email from Williams said. Efforts to identify the kids and get them evaluated are underway. 

This comes after hundreds of Brazilian Free-Tailed Bats — a protected species — were discovered living in the school’s auditorium earlier this week. Animal Removal and Prevention has been contracted to humanely remove and release the bats. 

The removal company’s owner, Melanie Harpster, said the bats most likely went inside the school seeking warmth in recent cold temperatures as they migrated south for the winter.

As of Thursday, Williams said about 1,200 bats had been removed or flown out of the building, and the auditorium remains closed off from the rest of the school.

Williams said there are no plans to close the school as bats continue to be removed in the next couple of weeks. About 2,000 students attend Layton High.

“The school continues to tell students not to touch bats,” Williams said.

Rabies is a nervous system disease caused by a virus in an infected animal’s saliva, according to the Utah Department of Health. In August, 55 animals tested positive for rabies in Utah, 34 of which were bats, according to a state report.

Williams initially told the Standard-Examiner the preventative rabies treatment requires six daily shots in the abdomen. Spence said while that used to be the case, the more modern treatment requires a series of five shots over two weeks.

“The really good thing about rabies and why we start the shots is that it’s totally preventable,” Spence said. “Once you start showing symptoms there is really no turning back from that and it’s almost 100 percent fatal. That’s why we take it so seriously.”

The health department has collected the bat the first student came into contact with as well as several other deceased bats and submitted them for lab testing.

Spence said they expect results in 24 to 48 hours.

The parents of Layton High students should talk with their children to find out about any other possible rabies exposure, Spence said. Anyone with concerns should call a health department hotline at (801) 525-5200.

Contact education reporter Anna Burleson at aburleson@standard.net. Follow her on Twitter at @AnnagatorB or like her on Facebook at Facebook.com/BurlesonReports.

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