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Sick bat found at Seattle park determined to have rabies

A sick bat was found on the sand at the Madison Park public beach in Seattle (located at E Madison St and E Howe St) on Monday afternoon, July 15. The bat was tested and has been found to have rabies.

Anyone who touched or had contact with the bat or its saliva could be at risk to develop rabies, which is almost always fatal once symptoms begin. Rapid treatment before symptoms appear is critical.

"If you, your child or your pet had any contact -- touched, or were bitten, scratched or had contact with saliva -- with a bat at Madison Park on July 14th or 15th, please call us immediately," said Dr. Jeff Duchin, Chief of Communicable Disease for Public Health – Seattle & King County. "We will give you information about how to get treatment."

For more information, call the public health hotline at 206-296-4949 (press option #2 then option #5).

Parents who were in the park with young children on July 14th and 15th should ask their children about any contact with a bat at the park.

Pets could have been exposed as well. Dogs, cats and ferrets should be currently vaccinated against rabies. But if they were exposed, they should be revaccinated by a veterinarian immediately, kept under the owner's control, and observed for 45 days. Any illness or unusual behavior during this time should be reported to the veterinarian immediately.

The bat was spotted by a beachgoer in the shade of a tree, at the south end of the beach, on Monday afternoon. A lifeguard reported it to his managers and Public Health.

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, most cases of rabies in animals occur in bats. Most bats, however, do not carry rabies, and most of the bats tested for rabies in Washington are not infected.

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 rabies

Rabies may also be carried by other mammals. Wildlife most likely to carry rabies includes skunks, raccoon, foxes, and coyotes. Domestic animals such as cats, dogs, ferrets, horses, cattle, goats, and llamas can also get rabies, usually from the bite of a wild animal. A person bitten by a wild animal or domestic animal should seek medical advice to assess the risk of rabies and to get other needed treatment.

More about bats

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 the house, call Public Health at 206-296-4774 to discuss the situation and to arrange for testing the bat for rabies. Public Health tests bats for rabies free of charge.
  • 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 secure box with a lid without touching it or wear heavy leather gloves to pick it up and put it in a box.
  • Use a shovel or gloves to put a dead bat in a box for testing. Do not throw it away!

Learn more about bats and rabies, and how to safely avoid bats.

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