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Health officials find rabid bats in local communities

Health officials find rabid bats in local communities
Nearly 40 rabid bats have been found across Los Angeles County in the last year, health officials said. (Peter Thomson / AP)

Thirty-eight rabid bats have been found across Los Angeles County in the last year, according to health officials.

The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health said one was found in Burbank, six in Glendale and three in La Cañada Flintridge. Jamie Middleton, deputy director of the department's veterinary public health program, said the county has experienced a three-fold increase in rabid bats over the last 10 years.

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"Bats can be found in urban, suburban and rural areas — they have even been found in tall buildings in Downtown L.A.," Middleton said. "Bats are able to live in a variety of environments and have now adapted to roost in buildings, houses or bridges."

Approximately 3% of bats in nature have rabies, but around 15% found in urbanized areas are more likely to carry the virus, according to Middleton.

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She said people in direct contact with a bat are at risk of being bitten and may not even realize it because their teeth are so small — even a superficial wound could still transmit the rabies virus.

Despite the danger, Middleton said there has been no reported case in the county of a person contracting the virus from a bat. And only one to three such cases are reported annually nationwide.

If a person or pet does come into contact with a bat, she said they should immediately get tested for rabies. People should also refrain from touching a bat in any way, even if it's found lying on the ground.

"If a bat is found flying inside a home, the room it is flying in should be vacated to prevent contact with it," she said. "Live bats found inside homes should not be let out unless it is certain that no one was in contact with it."

People are encouraged to call their local animal control agency in the event that they encounter a bat. Visit publichealth.lacounty.gov for more information.

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Andy Nguyen, andy.nguyen@latimes.com

Twitter: @Andy_Truc

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