Health officials: Tell children not to touch bats

Aug 30 2010 - 10:44pm

FARMINGTON -- Bats. Oh man! The annual bat migration season has Davis County Health Department officials warning parents of the dangers of their children being exposed to bats that may be rabid.

"The message is simple. Tell your children, 'Don't touch bats -- dead or alive,'" County Health Director Lewis Garrett said.

The message from the health department comes on the heels of four elementary school-aged Davis students having been exposed to a bat that officials were unable to test.

"Unfortunately, whenever bats aren't able to be recovered or are too decomposed for testing, we don't know if they carried rabies," Garrett said of the circumstances surrounding the latest bat- human encounter.

"Based upon the individual circumstances, the Davis County Health Department's staff errs on the side of caution by recommending to the attending health care providers that their patients be treated with post-exposure vaccine because the disease is virtually 100 percent fatal," Garrett said.

The county's follow-up investigations always look at the likelihood of someone's exposure to a rabid animal's body fluids to determine if the rabies vaccine is needed, he said.

This is not the first time migrating bats have flexed their wings in Davis County.

"Back in 2007, we had exposures to rabid bats at or near two local schools within a two-week period," Garrett said.

This is the same time each year that health officials will routinely see additional bat exposures, said Brian Hatch, Davis County Health epidemiologist.

"Late August through September is both bat migration season and time for students to head back to school. With bats and kids on the move, the likelihood that they may cross paths is greater," Hatch said.

"If a wild animal -- especially a bat -- is found near places frequented by humans, there is an increased chance that the animal is confused and disoriented because it has rabies," Hatch said. "Wild animals usually don't want to be around humans. That type of behavior makes us much more suspicious that the animal is infected with rabies."

Rabies is a disease of the nervous system caused by a virus -- usually the result of a bite, a scratch or other contact with a rabid animal.

"To remind others of the danger from rabies, adults and children must understand that these and other wild animals shouldn't be approached or handled for any reason," Garrett said.

The health department requests that the public report any strange behavior in wild animals or pets to Davis County Animal Care and Control at 801-444-2200.

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