Contra Costa public health officials are urging residents to avoid handling wildlife after a 34-year-old man was bitten by a bat and later died from rabies.
Back in March, the Central Contra Costa man reached his hand into a plastic bag that contained a rabid bat and was bitten. After travelling extensively around the world, the man died in a hospital in Switzerland, according to officials with the Contra Costa Health Services (CCHS) Department.
It is the first case of an American contracting the disease over here and dying from it on foreign soil. The man came in contact with a number of people along the way, several of whom underwent treatment for rabies as a precaution.
“To be safe, people should not handle wildlife, especially bats," said Erika Jenssen, Contra Costa Health Services Communicable Disease Program Chief. "It’s critical that people who have been bitten by bats or wild animals seek medical attention immediately.”
Rabies is a viral infection that can be contracted by human beings as well as other mammals such as bats, skunks, raccoons, foxes, coyotes, cats, dogs, and farm animals. The disease is nearly 100 percent fatal if not treated prior to the onset of symptoms.
The moral of the story — if you see a bat writhing on the ground, or even if it seems to be dead, don’t touch it. Bats are the primary carriers of rabies in the animal world.
According to CCHS, three rabid bats were found in Contra Costa this year. Last year, 211 of the 223 animals testing positive for rabies were bats.
“The vast majority of bats pose no risk of rabies,” said Curtis Fritz, Stat Public Health Veterinarian with the California Dept. of Public Health. “However, a bat that behaves unusually, such as lying on the ground or being active during the daytime, is of greater concern and people should not attempt to handle it but should contact their local animal control agency.”
Symptoms of rabies include:
- Behavior changes, including depression and aggression;
- Decreased appetite;
- Excessive salivation
- Irritation, prickling or itching sensations at the site of the bite;
- Fever, headache;
- Confusion, stress and anxiety;
- Impaired swallowing.
If you think you have been exposed to rabies, wash the wounds thoroughly, seek immediate medical attention and contact Contra Costa Animal Services at (925) 335-8300 and Contra Costa Public Health at (925) 313-6740. If treatment is needed, vaccines (given in the arm) and human rabies immunoglobulin are administered to prevent the onset of rabies.