A rabid bat was discovered near a middle school in San Juan Capistrano, a city 20 miles south of Irvine. The bat, which was found alive, was discovered on Wednesday, Oct. 20. It is unknown whether or not the bat transferred its infection to any other animals, however no cases of rabies in humans or any mammal (other than bats), have been reported in Orange County for many years.
“No direct contact with the bat was made,” said Ryan Drabnk, the director of the Orange County Animal Care Center.
However, he went on to explain that the concern about rabies is still high.
“Orange County is still considered a rabies area,” Drabnk said..“There have been 16 other cases of rabies, all concerning bats, in Orange County since the beginning of this year.”
Areas in Orange County where rabid bats have been found include Newport Beach, Orange, Anaheim and Irvine.
While rabid bats are not uncommon in Orange County, this year there have been a particularly large amount of infected animals discovered. The Orange County Health Department and the Irvine Department of Animal Control have both issued press releases warning O.C. residents to be aware of the increased risk of rabies.
Rabies, a virus that can affect all mammals, is transferred through saliva, making bites from rabid animals particularly dangerous. Dr. David Lyon, a professor at UCI who uses the rabies virus in his research, stated that an infected animal will, in the first one to three days after infection, seem “depressed, moribund and hyper-excitable,” and “will exhibit marked depression in activity.”
In the later stages of infection, the animal will become, as Dr. Lyon describes, “vicious and attempt to attack other animals. Following the excitable stage, paralysis begins to set in, throat and chewing muscles will not work and animals will be unable to swallow, causing foaming at the mouth.”
When left untreated, rabies is almost always fatal, so getting medical attention before the symptoms set in is very important. If rabies is confirmed, the “post-exposure treatment” includes an injection of human antibodies for the rabies virus and a series of four shots given over weeks.
“The treatment is equal to any other series of shots, for instance, the measles vaccine,” said Dr. Hildy Meyers, medical director of epidemiology for the Orange County Health Care Agency.
She further warned that the best way to avoid contracting rabies is to avoid contacting wild animals.
If anyone discovers a wild animal that is behaving abnormally, which Drabnk defined as “not running away from you,” the Irvine Animal Control department should be immediately contacted at (949) 724-7092. Furthermore, if a bat, or any other animal, is found dead, Animal Control should be contacted, and the animal should not be touched.
If you are bitten by an animal believed to be rabid, thoroughly wash out the bite, making sure to clean out any saliva in the wound, and then immediately seek out medical attention. If you are unsure if you have been exposed to a rabid animal, call (714) 834-8180 and a nurse will evaluate you for the symptoms of the virus.