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Kids should get rabies treatment after bats infest Alabama daycare, officials say

Are you at risk for rabies?

Rabies is a virus that infects wildlife, especially bats, raccoons, skunks and foxes in the US. It can spread to people and pets when they are bitten or scratched, causing fever, agitation and death.
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Rabies is a virus that infects wildlife, especially bats, raccoons, skunks and foxes in the US. It can spread to people and pets when they are bitten or scratched, causing fever, agitation and death.

Alabama health officials are telling the parents of every child enrolled at a daycare in Union Springs to have their kids treated to prevent rabies following a reported bat infestation.

A public health environmentalist discovered bats at Turner’s ABC Learning Center Site 2 in the Bullock County town on June 20, including “at least two dead bats seen in the living space,” the Alabama Department of Public Health said in a news release on Wednesday.

The department said it was responding to a complaint about the daycare center.

“Only a small percentage of all bats carry and transmit rabies,” officials said in the news release.

Still, the daycare voluntarily shut down last Thursday “to prevent any possible exposures,” and health officials said they have made multiple attempts to reach parents and caregivers of children who attended the daycare to suggest every child get preventative rabies treatment.

The Alabama Department of Public Health did not immediately respond to a request for comment on how many kids attend the daycare and if the bats have tested positive for rabies.

“A professional wildlife specialist has begun work and will identify and correct any issues at the daycare to protect the health of children, staff, and visitors,” health officials said.

Following the specialist’s work, the health department said it “will provide a courtesy inspection to look for any additional bats or environmental contamination from the bats that would pose a risk to the building occupants.”

Health officials advised the public to keep away from living and dead bats to prevent exposure to the rabies virus, which can be deadly in humans and animals alike.

“If exposure to people or pets is suspected, dead, sick, or easily captured bats should be tested,” officials said.

Bats that carry rabies can pass it to humans through bites — but “bat teeth are so small you might not even know you were bitten,” according to the Texas state health department.

“You can also get rabies if the saliva from an animal with rabies gets in your eyes, nose, or mouth,” Texas 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.”

Editor's note: The following video contains graphic content. Peter Costa, with the Global Alliance for Rabies Control, explains how to properly clean and treat a wound from a possible rabid animal bite. The video is an excerpt from a video.

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Jared Gilmour is a McClatchy national reporter based in San Francisco. He covers everything from health and science to politics and crime. He studied journalism at Northwestern University and grew up in North Dakota.

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