Children Exposed To Rabid Animals, Caution Urged

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Three recent incidents involving children who came into contact with rabid animals raise concerns about rabies in Arizona.

State and Maricopa County health officials are working with two local elementary schools after multiple students had contact with dead bats. The bats tested positive for rabies at the Arizona State Health Laboratory.

In another incident, a rabid bobcat attacked a young girl at a family gathering in Gila County on Easter Day. The child was bitten on the back and arms, and two men were scratched while trying to subdue and kill the cat.

The bobcat was confirmed to have rabies by the Arizona State Health Laboratory. A total of five people were given shots to prevent rabies after being bitten or scratched by the cat, or exposed to its saliva.

"Every year, children at elementary schools find rabid bats on school grounds or bring one to school. One out of five bats found on the ground, unable to fly, are sick with rabies," advised Elisabeth Lawaczeck, state Public Health Veterinarian.

A student brought a dead bat in a bag to a Phoenix elementary on Friday, April 13. Twenty students who handled the bat are receiving the rabies vaccine.

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State and local health officials also are working with an elementary school in Scottsdale, where multiple students played with a dead bat found on school grounds. Two students are receiving rabies vaccine.

"It is important that parents tell children to stay away from bats," said Craig Levy, head of the Arizona Department of Health Services' Vector Borne and Zoonotic Disease section. "These incidents illustrate why no one should handle bats, even if they are dead. Anyone who comes across a bat should leave it alone."

Rabies is fatal to humans once symptoms appear. Anyone who has had contact with a bat should seek medical attention, Levy said.

In Arizona, rabies most commonly occurs in bats, skunks and foxes, but any mammal can contract the disease. Rabid animals may show unusual behavior or appear unstable. Rabid carnivores, such as skunks, foxes, bobcats, coyotes, dogs and cats, may become aggressive and may attempt to bite people, pets and livestock. Wild animals exhibiting unusual behavior should be reported to local animal control officials.

Examples of unusual behavior include: wild animals that show no fear of people and pets; nocturnal animals that are active in daylight; and bats found on the ground, in swimming pools or that have been caught by a pet.

ADHS recommends the following precautions:

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