A bat that bit a 9-year-old girl tested positive for rabies, according to the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services.
The bat bit the girl's finger while she was in an apartment complex pool Saturday, said Patrick Ryan, director of the county's Veterinary Public Health and Rabies Control.
Several children were in the pool when the sick bat flew into the water and bit the girl while she was trying to save it from drowning, Ryan said Friday. Ryan would not release the name of the girl, who will receive five anti-rabies injections.
Officials determined the bat had rabies, he said.
Ryan said people should avoid touching stray bats, which are usually sick if found in the daytime. Healthy bats sleep during the day and have a natural radar that allows them to fly in the darkness without bumping into things, he said.
"If a bat is flying in the house, the best thing is to catch the bat and have it tested," said Ryan. "But don't catch it with your hands."
Last weekend, a rabid bat was found on the Hueneme High School campus in Ventura County, and an investigation has been launched by the Ventura County Public Health Agency to determine if anyone had contact with it.
The bat was found lying on the ground by the campus football field. It was taken by the animal regulation department, and officials said Friday that it was rabid.
Ten percent of the bats the county picks up are rabid, said Ryan. According to the county's department of health services, in 1998, 384 animals were diagnosed with rabies in California. Wildlife accounted for 99% of the rabid animals, most of which were bats and skunks.
Insect-eating bats have been the main cause of rabies in the U.S. since 1980. Between 1980 and 1996, 32 people in the U.S. died of rabies. Ryan said anyone who has had contact with a bat, even if he or she was not bitten by the animal, should get preventive treatment.