A live bat found in the women’s restroom at Cougar Stadium prior to the Sept. 2nd Hart football game has tested positive for the rabies virus.
There were no reports of human contact with the animal, but the Los Angeles County Department of Health reported there has already been nine confirmed rabid bats found in the Santa Clarita Valley this year.
A total of 22 infected bats in Los Angeles County have been reported as of mid-September, which is an increase from the county average of nine.
The problem has also affected neighboring Ventura, Orange and San Diego counties. 10 rabid bats were found near Moorpark in the last two months, and Orange County health officials issued a warning after an infected bat was found at Laguna Niguel Regional Park.
“It’s a higher number than usual [and] I am concerned about it,” Ventura County Health Department Officer Robert Levin said.
The occurrence of the rabies virus in the North American bat population is not uncommon. Health officials have reported it could just be the result of an increase in the bat population as a direct result of the increase in the insect population, which itself was a direct result of heavy winter rains.
Many Southern Californians may recall a similar surge in rabid-bat cases late last year, which prompted the L.A. County Department of Public Health to release this statement: “Make sure that children know to leave bats and other wildlife alone and keep pets away from wild animals, [and] if you see a sick bat or other sick animal, contact your local animal control agency.”
The rabies virus is not airborne and cannot be contracted from skin contact alone. Nearly all infections occur through saliva entering the blood stream via a bite from a contaminated animal.
While human fatalities caused by rabies are extremely rare in North America, it is estimated that over 50,000 people die each year worldwide from the virus, with the majority of cases being reported in Asia and Africa.
Most Americans learn from a young age about the dangers of rabies and while any mammal is susceptible to infection, dogs are the animals most commonly associated with the virus.
The initial symptom for many cases is a painless trembling, which medical personnel are trained to identify and will quickly quarantine a patient. If blood tests come back positive for a rabies infection an adult patient is usually given approximately 5-10 days to live.