Here’s what you need to know about contracting and preventing rabies in the United States.
A Texas elementary school student was throwing a jacket around last week when a living bat tumbled out of the pocket — and the bat has now tested positive for rabies, deputies said.
The bat was discovered around 3 p.m. on Oct. 26 at Sycamore Springs Elementary School in Austin, according to the Hays County Sheriff’s Office. Deputies picked up the bat at the school, they said.
The sheriff’s office wrote in a Facebook post that anyone who may have encountered the rabid animal should call local animal control at (512) 393-7896, the state health department’s Zoonosis Control office at (254) 778- 6744 or the Hays County Sheriff’s Office.
State health services officials tested the animal for rabies, the sheriff’s office said
Officials cited privacy rules in declining to say if the student had been examined, the Austin American-Statesman reports.
Bats infected with the rabies virus can transmit it to humans by biting them — but “bat teeth are so small you might not even know you were bitten,” the Texas state health department warns.
Bites aren’t the only way to contract that dangerous virus, though.
“You can also get rabies if the saliva from an animal with rabies gets in your eyes, nose, or mouth,” health officials said. “This can happen if you get the saliva on your fingers and then touch your face. Another way you can get rabies is by touching an animal with rabies and getting its saliva in open cuts on your skin.”
Touching bats, even if they’re dead, isn’t advised, health officials said.
In the last 25 years, about 1.5 people in the United States has died each year of rabies carried by bats, according to Texas A&M University. Those who died had rabies left untreated because they didn’t realize they were in danger, or didn’t know they had been bitten or otherwise exposed to rabies in the first place.
Other animals that carry rabies include coyotes, skunks, foxes and raccoons, according to Mayo Clinic. Pets and livestock can be infected as well. A rabies shot is recommended immediately for anyone who had physical contact with a rabid animal, the hospital’s overview on the deadly virus said.
Symptoms in humans include fever, partial paralysis, headache, vomiting, confusion and more — but by the time those symptoms begin to crop up, the disease has likely reached its final, fatal stages, according to Mayo Clinic.