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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
News >  Spokane

Girl getting rabies vaccines after being bitten by infected bat

A young girl bitten by a rabid bat near Liberty Lake is receiving a series of vaccine injections to prevent rabies.

The girl’s mother, who had contact with the bat but was not bitten, also is receiving treatment, the Spokane Regional Health District said.

The girl, who is under age 10, was bitten Saturday at Liberty Lake Regional Park near the marshy area south of the swimming  beach, health officials said.

The bat tested positive for rabies at the Washington Department of Health’s Public Health Laboratories in Shoreline.

Other people at the park who may have come into contact with the bat are urged to call the health district’s Zoonotic Disease program.

The mother, Jennifer Bryan, and daughter, Jaleigh Bryan, noticed the bat shortly before the bat landed on Jaleigh’s leg and bit her, according to a report on KHQ.

Health District spokeswoman Kim Papich said the girl was at the park with her mother and a friend of her mother’s when the bat attacked the girl without provocation. The friend was able to pull the bat off the girl using clothing, but the bat flew away and they lost sight of it.

Soon after, a separate group at the park noticed a bat attacking a picnic table. The bat got stuck in the table and someone trapped the bat with a plastic cup, Papich said. At some point, the mother became aware of the commotion at the picnic table and the bat was turned over to her.

Papich said the mother took her daughter to the hospital along with the bat, which still was alive.

Health officials don’t believe people in the group who saw the bat at the picnic table came into contact with the bat, but as a precaution they and anyone else at the park Saturday who may have had direct contact with a bat are urged to contact the health district.

“We are being cautious in making absolutely sure that no one was potentially exposed to this bat,” said Dr. Joel McCullough, the district’s health officer, in a news release.

This is the first report of a rabid bat in Spokane County since 2007, when three bats tested positive for the deadly viral infection. A teenager in eastern Idaho was treated after being bitten by a rabid bat in June 2014. A year before that, three rabid bats were found in the Coeur d’Alene area.

No one in Washington has died from rabies since 1997, when a man from Mason County was diagnosed after his death. In 1995, a 4-year-old in Lewis County died after a bat bite in the child’s room went undetected.

Officials say prompt vaccine treatment is highly effective in preventing rabies following exposure. Injections should begin within 14 days after exposure. The virus is almost always fatal without proper treatment.

Rabies is spread among mammals through the bite of a rabid animal. Although rare, transmission also can occur if the saliva from a rabid animal comes in contact with a person’s eyes, nose, mouth or open wound.

Symptoms of rabies can take weeks to months to develop after exposure to a rabid animal.

Spokane County parks director Doug Chase said his department was not aware of the incident until he and other park workers were briefed by health district officials on Wednesday. He said the girl’s contact with the bat occurred not long after employees who staff the park left for the day.

The primary animals that carry rabies in the Northwest are bats, but less than 1 percent of all bats in the wild are infected with rabies. Last year, 276 bats were tested for rabies in Washington, with 5 percent identified as positive. Public health officials advise county residents to avoid contact with wild animals and ensure their pets are vaccinated.

If the health district determines that an exposure to a person or pet might have occurred, a bat should, with proper precautions, be tested for rabies.

Rabid animals may show unusual behavior and may become aggressive and attempt to bite people, pets and livestock.

Staff editor Jonathan Brunt contributed to this report.
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