Bat Rabies Threat Rises With Summer Temperatures

August 15, 2006

The so-called dog days of summer—a muggy stretch from early July to early September—might also be called the season's bat days in the United States.

This is the period when the flitting critters most frequently turn up in attics, bedrooms, and camp cabins across the country, sometimes carrying rabies.

A recent study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta, Georgia, says that 46 percent of U.S. rabies cases in humans are caused by bites or scratches from infected bats—more than the 31 percent attributed to dogs.

Five of every six infections from bats occur between July and September, and the frequency peaks in August.

While the threat of rabies provokes fear, transmission from bats is actually rare, according to the Austin, Texas-based nonprofit Bat Conservation International.

Only 48 confirmed cases of rabies from bats have occurred in the United States in the past 55 years, the group reports.

But recent bat activity at a Girl Scouts camp in Virginia's Loudoun County caused health authorities to offer rabies shots to nearly a thousand campers—and brought the bat-rabies connection strongly to the public eye.

More than two dozen campers will reportedly receive the preventive treatment, a series of six to nine shots given over a month.

Such shots are often administered even when people have not been conclusively bitten, says biologist Barbara French of the bat conservation group.

Doctors and health officials tend to err on the side of caution, because the rabies virus becomes incurable once a victim displays symptoms and can kill in as little as ten days after that.

August's Bat Days

Bats disappear from much of the U.S. during colder months, either hibernating or migrating south for the winter.

Continued on Next Page >>


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