Local health departments are warning that this is baby bat season, increasing the risk of contracting rabies. More than fifty people have been treated in one public health district alone.
Fifty-three people in the Thomas Jefferson Health District received a series of four shots and a dose of gamaglobin to prevent the development of rabies. Thirty of those cases involved bats, although the department’s director, Dr. Denise Bonds, says those patients may not have suffered a bite.
“Bat bites are very, very small. You wouldn’t necessarily know that you’d been bitten by a bat or a bat in a house where there’s someone who couldn’t explain that they’d had exposure to a bat - so, for example, a young child who couldn’t give you a clear explanation or someone who is disabled.”
Symptoms of the neurological virus don’t develop right away, but Bonds says people can’t afford to wait and see if, in fact, they were bitten by a rabid animal.
“A month or two later you will start to develop the signs and symptoms of rabies, and at that point we have no treatment, and there’s been very few cases of people who reach that who survive.”
She says treatment is no more painful than receiving any other shot, and it’s safe for people of all ages. On another preventive front, she advises the public to install window screens and inspect their homes, sealing up any areas where bats could get in.
“Bats are an important part of our ecosystem, and we want to encourage them. We just want to discourage them from living in our attics.”
The best time to do that is autumn when baby bats and their parents have left the premises. Experts also remind the public to keep up with pet vaccinations and boosters, to keep their distance from wild animals and to call animal control if they see any creature that’s acting strangely.