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from Mainichi Online


Rabid bat in Waterville toddler's room

Sunday, February 17, 2002

WATERVILLE — A 16-month-old Waterville boy began undergoing a series of immunization and vaccine shots this weekend after a rabid bat was found in his bedroom.

His father, Jim Evans, says that even though it doesn't appear his son, John, was bitten by the bat, doctors recommended the shots as a precautionary measure.

"It's a real serious health issue," Evans said during a telephone interview Saturday. "You get rabies, you die; that's all there is to it."

Rabies is an infectious viral disease present in the saliva of infected animals. Once infection occurs, the virus spreads to the central nervous system and causes inflammation of the brain. It can be fatal if not treated.

Evans, chief photographer for the Morning Sentinel, says it has not been determined yet if he and his wife also should receive the shots as a precaution.

Evans said he had risen early with his child Friday and about 7:30 a.m. had taken him to the changing table in his bedroom to get him dressed for the day — when he spotted the bat.

"I was opening up the drapes and heard little squeaking noises," Evans said. "I looked up and saw (the bat) on the curtain. ... I grabbed John and left the room. I told my wife we had a problem."

Evans said he put a towel at the bottom edge of the door to keep the bat in the room and called the animal control officer.

In the meantime, Evans said his wife entered John's room to get clothes and the bat had moved; it was hanging from a different curtain.

Worried that the bat would take off before the animal control officer arrived, Evans decided to catch the bat himself.

Armed with leather gloves, a piece of cardboard and a Smiley's ice cream container, Evans captured the bat.

"They sent it to the state epidemiologist and it was tested for rabies and came back positive," Evans said.

Evans said it did not appear that the child had been bitten, but he had cried once in the middle of the night: "They say (bat) bites can be so small they are almost undetectable." It was worth being cautious.

Once the positive test results were reported, his parents and pediatrician started John on a series of shots.

A local doctor could not be found for comment on Saturday, but according to information obtained from the National Center for Disease Control Web site, anyone exposed to rabies is given a regimen of one dose of immune globulin and five doses of rabies vaccine over a 28-day period beginning as soon as possible after exposure.

Additional doses should be given on days three, seven, 14 and 28 after the first vaccination, according to the CDC information, which a nurse at a Waterville hospital confirmed was the usual course of action.

The shots are said to be painless and are given in the arms or legs — unlike the earlier treatment, which meant shots in the stomach.

"I wasn't overly concerned until I realized the bat had rabies," Evans said. "The worst part of this is we're ill-at-ease in our own home."

Patrick L. Faucher, animal control officer for the Waterville-Winslow area who responded to the Evans home, said a bat should be captured alive if possible; but can be tested for rabies as long as no damage has been done to the head.

"Usually, the best thing to do is not even attempt to catch it and call an animal control officer immediately," Faucher said. However, not all towns have animal control officials that handle bats, he said.

"(Evans) did everything right, he had it contained when I got there," Faucher said. "But I don't really want people to touch them. I've had pre-exposure shots for rabies and every two years I get a booster shot."

Not all bats are tested, Faucher said.

"We had this one tested just as precautionary measure, because it was in the baby's room," Faucher said.

Faucher said the state laboratory immediately tested the bat and just a short time later reported the results to the parents. Faucher said he always calls the parents himself too, as a courtesy, just to make sure everyone is aware of what is going on and what needs to be done.

"It's nothing to mess around with," Faucher said.

Both Evans and Faucher pointed out that bats are useful creatures, killing thousands of insects each night. "Bats are good animals; they get a bad rap because they are kind of spooky," Faucher said.

"And not all bats have rabies," Faucher added. "Last summer I caught and removed 40 to 50 bats from houses in the Waterville-Winslow area. Of those, I had three tested. All were negative."

Copyright © 2002 Blethen Maine Newspapers Inc.

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