For Immediate Release:
June 10, 2022
Los Angeles County Department of Public Health (Public Health) was notified that a bat was handled by one or more individuals, including a group of children, at the Malibu Café at Calamigos Ranch in Malibu, California, on Saturday, June 4, 2022. Public Health is warning anyone who may have come in contact with this bat to contact their doctor to be evaluated for possible post-exposure rabies treatment or report any exposures by calling 213-974-1234.
Bats can carry rabies and transmit the virus through bites and contact with infectious saliva. Unfortunately, this bat is not available for testing, so it is unknown if it carried rabies.
Rabies is caused by a virus and affects the nervous system of infected animals and people. The disease is progressive and, once symptoms start, can rapidly cause death from respiratory failure. Initial symptoms of rabies in people are fever, weakness, and headache, which progress to a tingling sensation, anxiety, agitation, abnormal behavior, hallucinations, difficulty swallowing, coma, and death. Rabies is preventable but not treatable. Animals infected with rabies may show signs of aggression and illness or they may become more timid or they can show no signs of illness. In LA County rabies is most commonly found in bats. Bats may carry rabies and not show any signs of illness.
Anyone who has contact with any bat is strongly encouraged to call their provider to be evaluated for possible post-exposure rabies treatment or report any exposures by calling 213-974-1234.
In the event that an individual without health insurance is exposed to a rabid bat, Public Health will provide the required treatment at no cost. The Public Health Doctor On-Call will determine the need for treatment and help identify health care resources.
“At this time, we do not have any indication that this bat infected anyone with rabies. However, if untreated, rabies is nearly always fatal, so we want people to err on the side of caution,” said Muntu Davis, MD, MPH, Health Officer. “Parents need to ask their children if they noticed or touched any bats while at the facility. If anyone suspects they or their child came into contact with any bat, they should immediately be evaluated for possible post-exposure rabies treatment.”
People should be reminded to not pick up or care for sick or dead bats and to contact either Public Health or their local animal control agencies for proper removal.
Bats have very small, sharp teeth and a bite or scratch may go unnoticed. Any contact with the animal’s head has the potential to expose a person to the bat’s teeth or saliva. According to Public Health, direct contact with a bat is considered a high-risk exposure to rabies. Rabies is fatal if post-exposure prophylaxis treatment is not started prior to becoming symptomatic.
Bats are the main source of rabies in Los Angeles County. In 2021, sixty-eight rabid bats were found in Los Angeles County: http://publichealth.lacounty.gov/vet/rabiesmap2021.htm. This is the highest recorded number of rabid bats found in LA County since testing of bats for rabies began in 1961. Ten rabid bats have been detected so far in 2022: http://publichealth.lacounty.gov/vet/rabiesmap2022.htm.
Public Health provides consultation to physicians treating their patients for such exposures.
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