Six year old bitten by rabid bat

Some boys were kicking and throwing rocks at a Mexican free-tailed bat, when little Stephanie , 6, stepped in to save it. The bat bit her, and later that day she went to the hospital where she got the first in a series of rabies shots as a precaution, according to her father. A few days later the state confirmed that the bat was rabid. Now several others also will get shots and health authorities are taking precautions to prevent an outbreak of the disease that almost always is fatal.

Authorities also want to question a family down the block who found a bat in their garage and may have handled it. Also,  an odd-acting stray cat that was found wandering in the neighborhood has been sent for analysis, because it also may be infected with rabies.

Stephanie’s sister, brother, mother and uncle all handled the bat and started rabies shots as a precaution. Vaccination decisions are based on the situation and amount of exposure. Treatment, which prevents the disease’s onset, includes one dose of immune globulin and four doses of rabies vaccine over a 14-day period.

Rabies is spread when an infected animal’s saliva is passed to one who is uninfected, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The most common transmission is through a bite, though there are documented cases of airborne spread and contamination of mucous membranes such as eyes, nose or mouth, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Once symptoms start, the disease is almost 100 percent fatal. Since 1990 there have been eight cases of rabies in Texas, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services.  All died.

Colonies of Mexican free-tailed bats can number more than 1,000 in a space the size of an attic, said Jeff Norris, a bat specialist with Nuisance Wildlife Removal, a commercial and residential bat removal service.

State authorities have recommended the hiring of a firm that specializes in bats, because handling them in the wrong way can cause more problems than it solves. Bats, which are federally protected, should not be killed, they should be evicted.

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