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Health department, local wildlife refuge offer safety tips after children, woman exposed to rabid bat in Suffolk

Suffolk rabid bat.jpg
Posted at 4:29 PM, Jul 27, 2021

SUFFOLK, Va. – Three children and a woman are being treated after being exposed to a rabid bat.

The Suffolk Health Department received information on July 23 that a bat tested positive for rabies. In this case, three children found the injured bat and handled it out of curiosity. It happened near Central Avenue and Holladay Street.

The children are currently in the process of receiving a post-exposure vaccine to prevent rabies.

The Virginia Department of Health says without preventive treatment, by the time someone develops symptoms of rabies, there is no cure, and the disease is fatal in almost 100% of cases.

“The fact that they received prompt treatment, there should be no problems with this. The vaccine will take care of any danger that may have been there,” said Jay Duell, environmental health manager of the Western Tidewater Health District.

Meredith Broadhurst, president of Evelyn’s Wildlife Refuge, said the woman contacted them to try and help the bat, which they believed was injured. Soon, they realized the small, red bat was exhibiting odd behaviors.

“He was concerned because it was acting very agitated and doing behaviors that a normal bat wouldn’t do,” explained Broadhurst.

Though a rabies exposure often happens through a bite, Broadhurst said it doesn’t have to involve a bite and could be through a lick or a scratch or even just holding certain animals.

“Bats are really big groomers, so if you have a bat that’s been grooming and it has wet saliva on its back, and you have an open wound on your hand and you touch it, you have the chance of contracting that virus,” Broadhurst said. “It doesn’t have to be biting.”

The Virginia Department of Health offered the following safety information:

  • If your pet has been in contact with an animal that might be rabid, contact animal control or the local health department. In Suffolk, the animal control number is 757- 514-7855. The Suffolk Health Department can be reached at 757-514-4751
  • Seek medical treatment promptly for any animal bite to ensure appropriate and timely evaluation and treatment. All animal exposures must be taken seriously.
  • Do not approach wild or stray animals, especially raccoons, bats, foxes, skunks, cats, and dogs.
  • Ensure all pet dogs, cats and ferrets have current rabies vaccinations. Please consult your veterinarian, Suffolk Animal Control, or the Suffolk Health Department if you have any questions about pet vaccinations.
  • Confine your pets to your property.
  • Securely seal garbage containers with lids.

Related: Two people attacked by rabid fox at Busch Gardens

State law requires all dogs and cats over the age of four months to be vaccinated against rabies.