- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
After contact with bats, 11 Huntington Apartments residents have begun a battery of injections to prevent rabies, and another three have been recommended for treatment, a Charles County Department of Health spokesman said Tuesday.
Last week, the department notified residents of 240 federally subsidized apartments in the Waldorf complex that a dead bat had tested positive for rabies.
The department has evaluated 22 people from 12 households, spokesman Bill Leebel said. Those who have been bitten or scratched by a bat, touched one or had one in their hair, or slept in a room where a bat was found are told to see a doctor for a referral to a hospital for preventative vaccinations.
The series of shots, administered across four appointments, is precautionary, Leebel said. Rabies, a virus that attacks the brain, is transmitted through mammal bites. It is fatal unless treated before symptoms appear.
“It’s really us just not wanting to take any chances. If we even suspect that someone has had the slightest chance, we’d rather err on side of safety and caution than to not recommend the shots,” Leebel said. “I think after us talking to some of the residents and explaining the seriousness of the issue, I think if them and management work together, we wouldn’t see as much of this in the future. A lot of this is catch-up, too,” as prior contacts with bats are being reported in the wake of the health department’s letter.
People with insurance are responsible for the cost of their own treatment, but the health department will work with the uninsured, Leebel said.
Huntington resident David Reulet removed three bats from the building in one night two weeks ago, he said. It’s “not an infestation,” he said, but the animals get in when other residents remove screens from windows in stairwells.
He blamed his neighbors for the problem.
“Management, there’s no way they could [prevent it]. It would be a 24-hour job, one person going around checking the screens every day and then the next day, after the kids and the people here tear them out. ... They [management] could try as hard as they wanted to have people going around putting them back, but these people don’t care about nothing. They’ll rip the screens out,” Reulet said.
Reulet values the bats for eating insects and tries to get them out of the building before other residents kill them, he said. He’s warier since learning about the rabies, but doesn’t plan to contact the health department about his contacts with bats, including an earlier one where a bat bit and scratched his gloved hand but didn’t reach his skin. He said he’s certain that none of the bats ever bit his skin.
Bats were first detected in the attic of one of the buildings in April, said Craig Renner, spokesman for The St. Charles Cos., the Waldorf developer that built and manages Huntington Apartments. The St. Charles Cos. hired TrapPro, a wildlife removal company, to handle the infestation.
Removal began in May after TrapPro obtained a permit from state government to tamper with bats during their mating season, Renner said, and the company inspected two Huntington Apartments buildings and sealed gaps to keep bats from returning.
“What’s being done now is we further contracted with TrapPro. If we get a call from a resident that there’s a bat in the building, a bat in the apartment, somebody from TrapPro, trained personnel, come out to inspect the person’s apartment. If they find a bat they’ll remove it,” Renner said. Residents who find bats should alert the company by filing a maintenance request.
Renner wouldn’t say if residents have asked to be moved out of the building after learning about the rabid bat, but the company would evaluate any such requests and comply with Maryland law, he said.
“The bat found 10 days ago now and found to be rabid was found by one of our personnel. We’ve been trying all along, to, one, respond to each and every call; two, that we do the right thing when we do that. The overriding concern is protecting the health and safety of our residents and that’s what we’re trying to do,” Renner said.