County Health Director: Never touch a bat -- dead or alive - MyFoxAustin.com | KTBC Fox 7 | News, Weather, Sports

County Health Director: Never touch a bat -- dead or alive

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PHOENIX -

An east valley girl was bitten by a rabid bat last weekend and this is the first confirmed case in Maricopa County.

The child received post-exposure prophylaxis for rabies and is expected to be okay.  Authorities did not release her name, the exact location of where she was bitten or the species of bat.

"Although it does not appear that this child was playing with the bat, every year we have school-aged children who voluntarily come into contact with bats. It is important that parents and teachers remind students never to touch a bat -- dead or alive," said Dr. Bob England, director of Maricopa County Department of Public Health.

In 2011, Maricopa County had five rabid animals confirmed with rabies: three bats, one bobcat and one javelina.  Officials say that's the fewest in more than 10 years.

In Arizona, rabies commonly occurs in bats, skunks and foxes -- but any mammal can contract the disease.  Rabies symptoms include aggressive and unusual behavior, which include no fear of people or pets and nocturnal animals active in the daytime.

Maricopa County Public Health's recommended precautions against rabies:

  • Keep people and pets away from wild animals. Do not pick up, touch, or feed wild or unfamiliar animals, especially sick or wounded ones. If someone has been bitten or scratched, or has had contact with the animal, report it immediately to animal control or health officials.

  • Do not "rescue" seemingly abandoned young wild animals. Usually, the mother will return. If the mother is dead or has not returned in many hours, call the Arizona Game and Fish Department.

  • Spay or neuter your pets to help reduce the number of unwanted pets that may not be properly cared for or vaccinated regularly.

  • Vaccinate all dogs and cats against rabies. Pets should be kept in a fenced yard.

  • Take precautions when camping, hunting or fishing. Avoid sleeping on the open ground without the protection of a closed tent or camper. Keep pets on a leash and do not allow them to wander.

  • Do not disturb roosting bats.

  • If you find a bat on the ground, don't touch it. Report the bat and its location to your local animal control officer or health department. Place a box over the bat to contain it. Be careful not to damage the bat in any way since it must be intact for rabies testing.

Online: www.MCRabies.org

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