- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
The Charles County Department of Health learned July 24 that a bat retrieved from an apartment in the Huntington Apartments in St. Charles tested positive for rabies, and now wants everyone in contact with the apartments to be aware of the problem and the risks associated with rabies.
The department is asking anyone who has stayed overnight or lived at the apartments since Jan. 1 to attend a community meeting at 6 tonight, July 31, at Benjamin Stoddert Middle School at 2040 St. Thomas Drive in Waldorf for a briefing on the situation and to be assessed for potential bat exposure.
For those who can’t get to the meeting, the department is asking them to call 301-609-6840 during regular hours, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., and 240-216-4055 after hours, for a risk assessment for potential exposure to bats.
A small percentage of the bat population is infected with rabies, a fatal disease that is transmitted in infected saliva to all mammals, including people.
While the disease is almost invariably fatal after the onset of clinical signs, it is preventable if preventive treatment is administered after a bite or exposure to the saliva of an infected animal. For healthy individuals, preventive treatment consists of rabies immune globulin and four doses of a rabies vaccine administered over two weeks.
“Bats are an essential part of the ecosystem and simply being around bats does not necessarily expose a person to rabies,” Charles County Deputy Health Officer Dr. Dianna E. Abney said in a county news release. “However, risk increases when humans come into contact with bats. Bat bites, unlike dog bites, are less recognizable because of how small and sharp bat teeth are.”
Abney added that some exposures may go unnoticed, such as when a person is sleeping in the same room as a bat or if a bat is in the same room as an infant. Treatment might be recommended for people exposed in this manner.
Although human rabies is very rare in the United States, bats have been the most common source of the infection for recent human cases, the release states. However, most bats do not have rabies and therefore cannot transmit the virus. If a person or pet is exposed to a bat, the bat should be collected and tested for rabies.
Bats present a risk of exposure to rabies not only to humans but to pets as well. Any pet that may have come in contact with a bat at the Huntington Apartments should receive a booster vaccination against rabies, the release states.
Call 301-609-6840. Go to www.CharlesCountyHealth.org.