Douglas County health officials issued a warning after a rabid bat was found at Morton Middle School last Friday. While contracting rabies is very rare, health officials say that the best step is to first, test the bat for rabies and then also seek medical help for yourself.
There are 13 documented bat species in Nebraska, eight of those 13 are regularly seen in eastern Nebraska. Laura Stastny, the Executive Director of Nebraska Wildlife Rehab says that finding a bat with the disease is rare. "Less than one half of one percent of all bats carry rabies,” she said.
A bat contracts rabies the same way a human does, by getting bit by an infected animal. Stastny says the species of bats here only will bite in self-defense. "People get bit by bats generally when they pick them up, so you should never pick up a bat without protection over your hand and consulting professionals before you do so,” said Stastny.
Rabies is fatal for humans and animals so medical professionals warn that after possible exposure people should seek medical help immediately. "I think it's always important to remain calm, go see a medical provider and kind of work through the steps,” said Dr. Renuga Vivekanandan. The vaccination process for a rabies bite comes in four steps. "At the day of exposure, you get a vaccine and you also have to give immunoglobulins which are passive antibodies that you give, then on day three after the exposure, day seven and day 14,” said Dr. Vivekanandan.
While medical professionals say people should get vaccinated right away they can still give the vaccine within 72 hours of the encounter. After an incident like the one last Friday, Stastny says it's common to fear bats but she says they pose no real threat to people. "They are much more beneficial than they pose any real danger to us,” said Stastny.