School officials for the Princeton Public Schools learned yesterday that a bat that was previously removed from the school playground by animal control has tested positive for rabies. Parents have been asked to speak to their children to determine whether they have come in direct contact with the bat at any time. If parents suspect that a child has come in contact with the bat, they should call the child’s doctor, the Princeton Health Department at (609) 497-7608 and Animal Control Officer Mark Johnson at (609) 924-2728.
Some tips and information from the state Department of Health:
Rabies in humans is rare in the USA, with 1-2 human cases reported per year. Bats are the most common source of human rabies. Bats have increasingly been implicated in the transmission of rabies to humans. Among the 19 naturally occurring cases of rabies in humans from 1997-2006, 17 (90%) were associated with bats. Three of the 17 cases were bitten by a bat, 11 either handled or had direct contact with bats but had no known bites and 3 reported no encounters with bats. These findings suggest that limited or seemingly insignificant physical contact with rabid bats may result in transmission of the rabies virus to humans, even without a definite history of a bite. In 2009, 1188 bats were submitted for rabies testing at New Jersey’s Public Health and Environmental Laboratory with only 32 (2.7%)confirmed positive for rabies.
Rabies post exposure prophylaxis (PEP) is recommended for all persons with a known or suspect bite, scratch, or mucus membrane exposure to a bat unless prompt laboratory testing of the bat has ruled out rabies infection. PEP may be appropriate even in the absence of a demonstrable bite, scratch or mucus membrane exposure in situations where there is ar easonable probability that such an exposure occurred. Because bat bites may be less severe, heal rapidly, and therefore be more difficult to find or recognize than bites inflicted by larger mammals, PEP may also be considered for:
1. Direct (bare skin) contact between a human and a bat, unless the person can be certain that an exposure did not occur.
2. Persons in the same room as a bat and who might be unaware that a bite occurred.
3. An unsupervised infant.
4. A sleeping adult.
5. An intoxicated or mentally disabled person.
The absence of an identifiable bite wound should not negate the decision to treat given that bat bite wounds are extremely small and may be virtually undetectable within hours.
Residents reporting a bat in the home should leave the bat alone until animal control arrives to capture the bat. Residents should not open a window or release the bat. Contact with downed bats and other ill-appearing wildlife should be avoided and all physical contact with bats should be carefully evaluated by a physician for possible rabies PEP. It should be emphasized that PEP may be indicated even int he absence of puncture wounds or specific a history of a bite.
Because reduction of bat populations is not a feasible or desirable strategy for rabies control in bats, human and domestic animal contact with bats should be minimized by sealing potential bat entryways into homes. Bats should not be routinely captured or handled and should never be kept as pets. All dogs and cats should be currently vaccinated against rabies to provide a barrier to human exposures to wildlife rabies through pets.