It could be worse.
They could be vampires.
Seriously, public health officials are warning Santa Clarita residents to be careful of bats they might see in their yards or around the house because an unusually large amount of rabid bats have been found in the Santa Clarita Valley in the last 10 months.
A dozen rabid bats – more than half the amount found in Los Angeles County overall – were collected by veterinary public health officials and found to be infected with the potentially fatal disease. No animals or humans were found to have been bitten.
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While most bats do not have rabies and are very beneficial to have around, as they eat mosquitoes and other insects, as well as pollinating plants, they are the wild animal that most commonly carries rabies. Bats are nocturnal and sleep during the day in caves, under bridges and in small, dark areas. Bats seen flying in daylight or found on the ground are more likely to have rabies and should not be touched.
Bats found during the day should be reported to Animal Control (661-257-3191); do not pick up the bat, but put on leather gloves and try to cover the bat with a bucket or other trap so it can be examined by health department officials.
The local incidents:
4/2/10 – Castaic – Bat found clinging to side of house for four days before falling to ground
6/28/10 – Canyon Country – Bat hanging on side of one house for a day, then flew to second house where it hung for a day before falling to the ground, weak.
7/23/10 – Stevenson Ranch – Bat clinging to side of house, fell to ground next day
7/28/10 – Newhall – Bat near storage room and patio over 24 hours.
7/30/10 – Saugus – Bat found on ground of cement patio, wings fluttering, could not fly.
8/31/10 – Canyon Country – Dog was carrying around live bat in mouth. Dog’s rabies vaccine boostered and dog monitored for 30 days.
9/2/10 – Santa Clarita – Resident saw animal flapping around on ground in back yard. Thought it was a bird at first, watched it climb wall where it stopped and hung upside down.
9/14/10 – Santa Clarita – Bat found on sidewalk in front of store
9/17/10 – Stevenson Ranch – Bat found in morning on patio floor outside house, sat there for 24 hours, not moving
9/17/10 – Santa Clarita – Bat found in morning on patio floor outside house; climbed screen and stayed there for hours.
10/2/10 – Santa Clarita – Bat found alive
11/5 – Santa Clarita. Sick bat fell to ground in front of entrance to restaurant.
Rabies is an often-deadly viral infection spread by infected saliva. The virus travels from the wound to the brain, causing swelling and affects the central nervous system. The average incubation for the virus is 3 to 7 weeks.
Symptoms of rabies include:
- Anxiety, stress, tension
- Exaggerated sensation and pain at bite site
- Loss of feeling in an area of the body
- Loss of muscle function
- Low grade (102 degrees or less) fever
- Muscle spasms
- Numbness and tingling
- Swallowing difficulty (drinking causes spasms of the voice box)
If you think you have been bitten by a rabid animal (because the virus is also carried by wild animals such as skunks and coyotes and unvaccinated dogs), seek medical treatment right away. Adults are traditionally given a series of five doses of anti-rabies vaccine over a 28-day span; a complete recovery is expected if treatment is administered within two days of a suspected bite.
Untreated, the prognosis is not good. Once symptoms present themselves, few people survive longer than seven days.
Unfortunately for bats, there’s a lot of bad press out there. Contrary to rumor, they are not blind, they do not suck blood (and vampire bats only live in South and Central America) and people cannot get rabies from seeing a bat in an attic, in a cave or at a distance. They cannot get it from having contact with bat guano (droppings), blood or urine or just from touching a bat’s fur.
Santa Clarita residents should exercise caution and be alert to bat activity around them. Again, bats are good for the environment, (fewer than 1 in 1,000 bats carry rabies) but sick bats will make themselves known.
- Keep pets’ rabies vaccines up to date.
- Never touch or feed any wildlife.
- Bats with rabies will not attack people, but like all wildlife, they will bite if touched.
- Bats that are flying in daylight, sitting on the ground or spending time near people and pets are not healthy and there is a good chance that they are rabid.
If you wake to find a bat inside your home or find a bat near your child or pet, it needs to be tested for rabies. Do not touch it or let it escape. Cover it gently with a bucket or box and call Animal Control at 661-257-3191. For information on bats and their behavior, click here.