Public health officers found a bat near the Irvine Regional Park's lake in Santa Ana, Orange County, California last week. A saliva test showed the bat is positive for rabies.
Bats can transmit the virus to humans through bites. Bat teeth are very small that some bites can go on unnoticed.
There are two types of rabies vaccines already available in the market, one for pre-exposure and one for post-exposure.
"Once a person begins showing signs and symptoms of rabies, the disease is nearly always fatal," said the Orange County Health Care Agency in Santa Ana, California.
Preventive treatment in the form of pre-exposure rabies vaccines are given to people to stop` the virus from causing illness in case of contact. Alarmingly, this isn't the only bat in Orange County that tested positive for rabies. To date, the health agency already found 11 bats that are rabies positive. The county has not encountered a rabies case in humans since 1957.
The Orange County Health Care Agency encouraged residents near the area who came in contact with a bat to call the health agency at 714-834-7792 or 714-834-8180.
Initial rabies symptoms are similar to flu symptoms such as general discomfort or weakness, headache and fever. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said these symptoms could last for several days.
General discomfort could include an itching or prickling sensation in the area thought to have an insect bite. The itchy sensation could aggravate in the following days and progress to cerebral dysfunction symptoms such as confusion, agitation and anxiety. If left untreated, rabies can result in hallucinations, insomnia and an abnormal behavior.
In the United States, wild animals are the common sources of rabies infection among humans. While bats are often the top wild animal responsible for human rabies cases, coyotes, foxes, raccoons, skunks, dogs and cats can also transfer the disease to humans through bites and scratches.
Human cases of rabies infection are rare in the United States. Since 1990, the country has seen only 55 human rabies infections, said the CDC. As a precaution after animal bites, up to 39,000 people get rabies vaccines annually.
Around the globe, rabies infection among humans is more prevalent, claiming around 40,000 to 70,000 lives annually. Unvaccinated dog bites are often the cause of rabies infections.
Photo: Daniel Neal | Flickr