By JENNIKA INGRAM | Reporter
Palisadians beware: If you see a bat, do not touch it with your bare hands and report any abnormal behavior.
A bat was found alive in a private swimming pool at a home in the Summit community in The Highlands on Sunday, August 18. The next day, it tested positive for rabies at the Public Health Lab, according to an email sent to the Palisadian-Post by the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health.
As the Post went to print, 25 rabid bats have been discovered throughout the county this year, with one identified in Pacific Palisades.
“Although bats are the major animal species that carry rabies in LA County, only a very small percentage—1 to 2%—of bats in nature have rabies,” according to a public health advisory.
Up to 15 to 20% of the sick bats tested have been reported to be carrying rabies. Officials are not aware of what is causing an increasing trend, according to the Veterinary Public Health program.
“The County Health Officer is warning anyone who may come into direct physical contact with any bat to see their doctor to be evaluated for possible post-exposure anti-rabies treatment,” according to an informational flyer created by the Department of Public Health.
Rabies is an incurable, fatal disease that can affect a person, dog, cat, horse or any other mammal, according to the Veterinary Public Health program.
A series of post-exposure vaccinations to the upper arm within one to three days of being exposed to a bat may have a chance of preventing rabies from reaching the nervous system and causing rapid respiratory failure, according to the DPH website.
Veterinary Public Health sent out an advisory cautioning people to make sure their pets are up-to-date with their rabies vaccines. Any pets exposed to rabies have to be quarantined—whether they have been vaccinated or not.
The DPH website lists some telltale signs a bat might have rabies: Bats are habitually nocturnal and witnessing a bat during the day could be a sign of rabies.
Another concern is if a bat doesn’t seem afraid of people. Bats also become progressively paralyzed and have difficulty flying once they have the disease.
In people, early symptoms include: “fever, weakness, progressing into tingling sensation, anxiety, agitation, abnormal behavior, hallucinations, difficulty swallowing, coma [and] death,” as listed on the DPH site. Symptoms may not show up for 30 to 90 days.
In animals, there are “initially non-specific signs (vomiting, respiratory distress) progressing into neurological signs, difficulties walking, behavior change, aggression, paralysis, hydrophobia (fear of water), death.”
For animals, symptoms tend to appear three to eight weeks later.
The county is asking people to report interactions with bats and people or pets to Veterinary Public Health at 213-288-7060. For requests to pick up sick or dead bats for rabies testing, call West LA Animal Shelter at 888-452-7381.