KeepHealthCare.ORG – Brief panic follows rabid bat attack on UW campus | News
A rabid bat bit a UW student this past Saturday, sending county officials into a short-lived panic over how many people were exposed to the deadly disease.
The student was handling the animal near Husky Stadium when he was bitten. He then went to his fraternity, Lambda Chi Alpha, before seeking medical attention, possibly exposing others to the disease in the process.
Yesterday, health officials checked with the fraternity and today King County Health Officer Jeff Douchin said he does not believe other members of the group have contracted the disease. The student is presumed to be okay, but this could not be confirmed with Harborview Medical Center due to patient privacy laws.
A county lab confirmed the bat did, in fact, have rabies.
The incident marked the first time in at least a decade someone on the university campus has been attacked by an animal with rabies.
Anne Terry, a travel medicine provider at Hall Health, said ten years ago a rabid racoon attacked three people who later survived. Raccoons and foxes can also spread the disease, but bats are the most prolific carriers in Washington.
Rabies is almost always fatal by the time symptoms appear. These include headaches and dizziness, and later hysteria and convulsions as it spreads through the nervous system and toward the brain. The disease is transmitted through saliva, meaning there has to be a break in the skin for there to be a risk of exposure. Having a vaccination diminishes but does not eliminate the chance of contracting the disease.
“If someone has a bite or scratch, we’re never going to withhold treatment because we want to prevent them from dying,” Terry said. “So that’s why this is so important because they had … exposure with a bat that sounds like it had rabies.”
The incident was first directed to Abebe Aberra, program manager of UW Environmental Health Services, who then passed it onto officials within the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Aberra has gotten bat complaints in the past — three near the HUB and two near south campus — but never of one with rabies.
Aberra says the bite has kicked off discussions among school officials to better educate students of the dangers of bats. The timing couldn’t be better, he said, with summer approaching and the throngs of visitors it brings.
“If he knew, he wouldn’t have done it,” Aberra said. “This was a really unfortunate incident but gladly, the person is okay.”
Reach writer Max Wasserman at [email protected] Twitter: @maxandrw1