(OAKLAND, Calif.) -- A teenage volunteer for the Oakland Zoo is recovering after being bitten by a rabid bat. The bat, identified as a Mexican free-tailed bat, was not one of the zoo animals. According to Nicky Mora, public relations manager for the Oakland Zoo, visitors at the zoo saw the bat near the otter exhibit and alerted the volunteer.
“We definitely want to make clear this is not one of our bats,” said Mora. “[It's] one of three [rabid bats] found in the county in the last month.”
Mora said the animals that were located near the bat were not at risk because they had already been vaccinated against rabies.
Local officials in Alameda County said residents should avoid contact with wild animals, especially nocturnal animals such as bats, out in daylight.
Alameda County, where the Oakland Zoo is located, is a declared rabies area where all pet dogs older than 4 months old are required to be vaccinated against the disease.
“If they see bats looking unusual, don’t touch them,” Daniel Wilson from the Alameda County Environmental Health Department told ABC News affiliate KGO-TV. “Call us. Get them picked up.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control, rabies, if left untreated, can develop into a fatal disease with symptoms that include fever, headache, fatigue and, in more severe cases, confusion, paralysis and hallucinations. If rabies is treated in the early stages before symptoms become apparent and the infection reaches the brain, it almost always responds to vaccinations and doses of rabies-immune globulin.
Dr. William Schaffner, chairman of preventive medicine at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tenn., said that rabies is rarely fatal in the U.S. because of readily available treatments.
“Rabies is one of those illnesses – a lot of folklore about it and a lot of concern,” said Schaffner. “But we have treatment mechanisms that are really very, very effective.”
Although three bats have been found with rabies in the area, experts said that as long as residents do not seek contact with animals, they’re unlikely to be exposed.
“Generally, it’s just like most wild animals,” Dr. Andrea Goodnight, an associate veterinarian at the Oakland Zoo, told KGO-TV. “The bats are going to leave you alone if you leave them alone.”
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