Health officials are urging anyone who had contact with a bat at Hollywood Hills Equestrian Park on June 23 or 24 to seek medical attention for information on rabies treatment.
A rabid bat was found near the Woodinville horse arena’s seating area and was noticed on June 24 when it was captured and taken to a wildlife center. The bat began showing signs of rabies and was euthanized on July 5 and tested positive for rabies the following day, according to a press release from the Seattle and King County Public Health department.
Rabies is a viral disease that is spread through an infected animal’s saliva. Any warm-blooded animal can become infected and in North America it is generally spread by infected bats who bite people. People who are exposed to saliva in any way may also be at risk if it was ingested.
Once someone is infected, the rabies virus slowly migrates from the bite location to the brain, where it rapidly multiplies and causes swelling. Symptoms generally appear two to eight weeks after exposure. If rabies is treated before symptoms appear, the survival rate is near 100 percent. However, once symptoms appear, the disease is almost always fatal.
While older treatments involved a series of painful shots to the bellybutton, modern treatments can be completed with a much less intensive series of shots.
Pets are also susceptible to the virus, though dogs, cats and ferrets in Washington state are required to be vaccinated against rabies. The disease is rare in the U.S. and since 1990 the number of reported human cases has ranged from one to seven annually, according to the state Department of Health. There have been 10 bats that have tested positive for rabies statewide in 2018.
According to the U.S. Center for Disease Control, rabid dog bites account for 99 percent of human rabies deaths worldwide, largely concentrated in developing countries with inadequate public health systems. In the U.S., bats are the primary cause of human infections.
Bats flying overhead that don’t come into direct contact with humans or animals don’t pose a risk for transmitting the disease and healthy bats will avoid people. The county department of Public Health advises people to be suspicious of a bat found inside or on the ground.
If bats are found inside, call Public Health to see if the bat needs to be tested. If the bat is alive, don’t let it escape. Knock it to the floor with a broom and trap it with a garbage can and scoop it into a box or plastic storage container with a secure lid without touching it, or while wearing heavy leather gloves. Dead bats should be placed in a box for testing. It’s estimated that less than 1 percent of wild bats have rabies but 10 percent of bats that are captured for testing have the disease.
Bats have small teeth, so people who have been bitten may not realize it and the bite may not leave a mark. Rabies treatment should be undertaken if a bat is found in a room with a child or someone who is sleeping, mentally or physically challenged or intoxicated.