Rabid bat found at Green Lake Park, officials fear teens and pets may have been exposed

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SEATTLE -- A rabid bat was found at Green Lake Park in Seattle last week, and health officials fear teens and pets may have come in contact with it and could have been exposed to the disease.

If you had any contact with a bat at the park on Wednesday or Thursday, contact Public Health immediately for information on preventative treatment. Rabies can be life-threatening, but treatable if caught early.

RELATED: So far this year, 5 rabid bats have been found in Washington

Public Health — Seattle & King County says the bat was captured by a park visitor near the Green Lake boathouse on the east side of the park.

The visitor said they saw four teenagers move the bat, that appeared to be sick and unable to fly. The bat tested positive for rabies at the Washington State Public Health Laboratory on August 19.

Anyone who touched or had contact with the bat or its saliva could be at risk of getting rabies, which is almost always fatal once symptoms begin. Rabies can be prevented if treatment is given before symptoms appear.

“If you or your child had any contact with a bat at Green Lake Park on August 16th or 17th, please contact Public Health immediately to get information about preventative treatment,” said Dr. Jeff Duchin, Health Officer for Public Health – Seattle & King County. Contact includes touching a bat, be bitten, scratched, or any other bare skin contact with a bat or its saliva. If your teenagers were at the park on Thursday evening, ask them if they had any contact with a bat.

Public Health – Seattle & King County’s phone number to report human bat exposures is 206-296-4774.

Health officials say pets might have been exposed as well. If your pet might have been exposed, contact your veterinarian immediately.

Dogs, cats, and ferrets should be current on their rabies vaccine but will need to be revaccinated if they had contact with a bat.

More about rabies

 Rabies is dangerous, but treatable if caught early:

  • If someone has had contact with the bat, treatment can prevent infection. This treatment should be given as soon as possible.  
  • Once symptoms develop, rabies cannot be treated and leads to death in virtually all cases.

Rabies is a viral disease of the central nervous system that is almost always fatal once symptoms begin. The virus is found in the saliva of an animal with rabies and is usually transmitted by a bite or scratch. In Washington state, between 3-10% of bats tested for rabies are positive, though the bats that are tested are usually sick or injured; less than 1% of healthy bats are infected with rabies.

Because rabies is a life threatening disease, medical advice must be sought promptly if a bat comes into contact with humans or animals.

More about bats

 Bats flying overhead, and bats that have not had direct contact with humans or animals, do not pose a risk for transmitting rabies. Healthy bats will avoid people, so be suspicious of a bat you find inside your home or on the ground.

If you find a bat:

  • If you find a bat inside your house, call Public Health at 206-296-4774 to discuss the situation and to determine whether the bat needs to be tested for rabies. Public Health tests bats for rabies free of charge under certain circumstances.
  • If the bat is alive, do not let it go! Knock it to the floor with a broom or other object, and cover it with a wastebasket or other container. Scoop it into a box or plastic storage container with a secure lid without touching it or wear heavy leather gloves to pick it up and put it in the box.
  • Use a shovel or gloves to put a dead bat in a box for testing. Do not throw it away.

Visit the Public Health – Seattle & King County website for more information about bats and rabies, and how to safely avoid bats. Also, see the Public Health Insider blog for a Q&A on bats.

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