Two of four kindergartners from a Scottsdale school who handled a rabid bat last week now are receiving vaccinations, state officials said Thursday.
The incident at Laguna Elementary School, 10475 E. Lakeview Drive, marks the third time this month that people across Arizona have been exposed to rabies from wild animals. In the other cases, a bobcat attacked a family near Payson and grade-school students in Phoenix also found a bat.
At Laguna, none of the others exposed are expected to fall ill; Arizona has not seen a human case of rabies since 1970. Nationally, an average of three cases is reported every year, said Arizona Department of Health Services spokesman Michael Murphy.
The children found the bat April 12, said Elisabeth Lawaczek, state Public Health veterinarian. This time of year is rare for rabid bats as most are found during the summer, she said.
But bats by far are the most common carriers of rabies in Arizona, Lawaczek said. Last year, state officials reported 140 rabid animals — 96 of which were bats.
Lawaczek credited the staff at Laguna for its organized response. All the children were interviewed “in a very reassuring way” to see if they had been exposed. Then, the parents of the exposed children spoke with Lawaczek the next morning.
A vice principal at Laguna referred questions to the Scottsdale Unified School District, and a spokeswoman did not return a call seeking comment.
Rabies is a viral disease that causes acute inflammation of the brain in mammals. In non-vaccinated humans, rabies is almost always fatal after neurological symptoms have developed, but prompt post-exposure vaccination may prevent the virus from progressing. The current vaccination treatment for rabies involves five shots, spread out over a span of four weeks, Lawaczek said.
• Keep people and pets away from wild animals. Do not pick up, touch or feed wild or unfamiliar animals, especially sick or wounded ones. If someone has been bitten or scratched, or has had contact with the animal, report it immediately to animal control or health officials.
• Vaccinate all dogs and cats against rabies. Pets should be kept in a fenced yard and not allowed to wander.
• Take precautions when camping, hunting or fishing. Avoid sleeping on the open ground without the protection of a closed tent or camper.
• Do not disturb roosting bats. If you find a bat on the ground, don’t touch it. Report the bat and its location to your local animal control officer or health department. Place a box over the bat to contain it.
SOURCE: Arizona Department of Health Services