Rabid bat found on Seattle public beach could pose fatal risk

SEATTLE - A rabid bat found at the Madison Park public beach could pose a serious health threat to anyone who came in contact with it.

The bat was spotted by a beachgoer in the shade of a tree at the south end of the beach July 15. A lifeguard reported it to his managers and public health officials. The bat was tested was confirmed to have rabies.

Anyone who came in contact with the bat or its saliva could be at risk to develop rabies, which is almost always fatal once symptoms begin.

If someone has had contact with the bat, treatment can prevent infection. It should be given as soon as possible.

"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 14 or 15, please call us immediately," said Dr. Jeff Duchin, chief of communicable disease for Seattle & King County Public Health. "We will give you information about how to get treatment."

Pets could have been exposed to the rabies virus as well. Officials recommend dogs, cats and ferrets be vaccinated against rabies. 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 a veterinarian immediately.

Rabies is a viral disease of the central nervous system. The virus is found in the saliva of an animal with rabies and is usually transmitted by a bite or scratch. Most cases of rabies in Washington animals occur in bats; however most of the bats tested for rabies in the state are not infected.

Healthy bats will avoid people, according to Seattle & King County Public Health, so residents should be suspicious of a bat found inside a home or on the ground.

If you find a bat call Seattle & King County Public Health at 206-296-4774 to discuss the situation and to arrange for testing the bat for rabies.

If the bat is alive, officials say 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, officials urge.