Bat Victim Facing Grave Danger

Green Mountain Falls may have survived the Waldo Canyon fire, but the verdict is still not in regarding a mysterious attack by a rabid bat that may have exposed an unknown young woman to rabies.
If this disease is not treated immediately, its symptoms can become fatal. And already, the unprecedented bat strike has commanded a considerable amount of local and natio

nal attention, raising the ire of health experts. Four bats have tested positively for rabies in El Paso County.

El Paso County Public Health issued an emergency notification last Friday, asking for assistance regarding an Aug. 18 incident, when a diseased bat reportedly fell on a woman around the lake gazebo area in Green Mountain Falls. This same notification was sent out by emergency management authorities in Teller County. As of press time Monday, the reported victim still had not contacted authorities. “We are still waiting to hear from the woman,” said Danielle Oller, a spokesperson for El Paso County Public Health. She described the incident as highly unusual.

According to officials, several witnesses in the gazebo area saw the bat fall on the woman and then hit the ground. One of the witnesses put the bat in a box and then took it home. The bat subsequently died, and testing by El Paso County Public Health confirmed the presence of rabies, a fatal disease.

Officials evaluated the person who picked up the bat and determined that no treatment was necessary. Officials also have concluded that no one else in the immediate area around the time of the incident faced any danger.

However, El Paso health officials are worried about the woman’s safety. She is described as a young woman in her 20s or early 30s. They are asking for her or anyone who knows the victim to contact El Paso Public Health at 339-3230.

The staff will assess her risk for rabies exposure.

Health department officials caution that preventive treatment is available for people who have been exposed to rabies, but it needs to occur relatively shortly after they are exposed to this disease. According to a El Paso Public Health press release, rabies is a fatal disease that can be spread from a bat to a person or pet by a bite or scratch, even if very small or barely noticeable. Officials say there is medication available for exposed people that will prevent rabies infection.

Health officials give the following advice regarding these types of potential encounters:

• Never touch a bat or any other wild animal. A healthy bat likely will not come near enough to be touched, so a bat that is slow, lying on the ground or that falls from a tree could be showing signs of illness. If you can touch the animal, chances are it is sick. Children who find a bat should leave it where it is and tell an adult.

• Do not pick up a bat with your hands, even if you’re wearing gloves. Use a shovel and double trash bags.

• If you are bitten by a bat or if you suspect you’ve been exposed to its saliva, try to contain the bat without touching it, and contact your local animal control agency or health department so the bat can be tested.

• Make sure your pets are vaccinated against rabies