King County officials issued a public-health warning late Tuesday after a bat that tested positive for the rabies virus attacked someone on the University of Washington’s campus, and now they fear others were exposed to the life-threatening disease.
Someone reported the bat found behind Husky Stadium near Union Bay’s water around 2 p.m. Saturday, according to the department of Public Health — Seattle & King County. The bat had acted aggressively and bit at least one person — though it is unclear where and when — latching onto that person’s fingers.
The victim and a group of people at Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity first tried removing the bat on their own, and then the victim sought professional medical care, a news release from the department says.
Further details on that person — including age, gender or condition as of Tuesday — were not immediately known.
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Also unclear was how or by what route the infectious bat traveled more than one mile between Union Bay and the fraternity, located in the 4500 block of 19th Avenue Northwest.
People and animals in the bat’s path were also likely exposed, the release says.
“Any person or animal that touched or had contact with the bat or its saliva could be at risk of getting rabies, which is almost always fatal once symptoms begin,” the release says. “Fortunately, rabies can be prevented if treatment is given before symptoms appear.”
The disease usually spreads through animal bites and scratches. Health officials urge anyone who had contact with the bat near the stadium or at the fraternity to seek medical attention immediately, or contact their veterinarian if their pet was at risk.
State public health officials notified the county agency of the bat’s positive test for rabies Monday.
Those results mean a total of two bats have tested positive with the disease across all of Washington so far this year, according to tallies by the state Department of Health. In 2017, the agency recorded almost two dozen bats with rabies statewide — nearly the same total as the year prior.
A majority of bats do not carry the disease, which affects a person or animal’s central nervous system.
According to the department, people bitten or scratched by a potentially rabid animal should wash their wound with soap and water first. Then, they should call a health-care provider or the department’s disease-response division at 206-296-4774 for the next steps.
And because some bite marks are small or shallow, meaning they are hard to spot, officials recommend anyone who was sleeping or intoxicated near a bat to contact a health-care professional no matter the circumstance. Also, unattended children or people who have mental or physical disabilities should always seek medical help.
Washington state law requires rabies vaccinations for dogs, cats and ferrets.