Bat found near children's play area in park tests positive for rabies

CLAYTON (KTVU) A rapid bat discovered in a Contra Costa County park is prompting a reminder from health officials: don't touch bats.

That may seem obvious, but in fact, bats are the number one carriers of rabies.

The bat was found on a pathway at The Grove Park, on Main Street in Clayton, on Sunday July 16.

The person who spotted it didn't touch it, and kept other people away, then scraped it into a box and brought it to the Lindsay Wildlife hospital in Walnut Creek.

"If a bat's out during the day, usually there's something going on with it," Amber Engle, Wildlife Rehabilitation Manager, told KTVU.

A bat crawling on the ground in the middle of the day was certainly startling.

"They look very threatening when they're showing you their teeth, but really they're just scared," Engle added.

That particular bat was not only scared, but sick.

It declined and died in about a week.

"Bats are the most likely animal to be found rabid and this year we've had three bats test positive for rabies," said Paul Leung, Communicable Disease Chief for Contra Costa County. 

The other two rabid bats this year were in a yard, and in a home.

"People don't often see bats. And when they see one, there could be some curiousity", Leung told KTVU.

Fortunately, the latest rabid bat wasn't near the park's play structure, where children might have had contact.

The breed, dubbed the "Big Brown Bat" is the most common in California.  

It roosts in trees, barns, and under roofs, and since it's nocturnal, it is rarely seen in daylight.

"Seeing a bat might seem pretty neat. And people may want to come up and touch it," acknowledged Leung.

"But we remind people, bats could be rabid and if bitten by a rabid bat, you could develop rabies."

Those who frequent the park appreciate the warning.

"Now that I have kids, I'm really always worried about them touching things they're not supposed to," parent Billy Higgins of Clayton told KTVU.

"But it does seem like an odd spot because I didn't even know we had any bats around here."

The bat came into the Lindsay Wildlife Hospital during its busiest time of year, overwhelmed with birds right now.    

Staff said the bat seemed healthy enough on arrival, until the rabies virus advanced.

Bats, they say, often get a bad rap even though they are beneficial, feeding on insects.

"Mostly they clean up the bugs for us. Bats eat the mosquitos  that carry West Nile virus," explained Engle.  
Rabies is almost always fatal in humans if not detected and treated swiftly.

That's why anyone who touches a bat or is bitten by wildlife should see a health care provider for rabies testing, because by the time symptoms show, it can be too late.

Treatment consists of five injections, in the arm, over a period of a few days.

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