Bats at Grand Canyon test positive for rabies, human contact precautions

GRAND CANYON, Arizona — A bat landed on a visitor at Grand Canyon National Park Wednesday, crawled on her for at least 10 minutes and later tested positive for rabies.

The visitor was standing in front of the Tusayan Museum, just west of the Desert View Visitors’ Center within Grand Canyon National Park between 2:30-3 p.m. The bat crawled on the visitor’s shorts, shirt, and leg as a crowd gathered around the bat to take pictures.

The bat was later captured, euthanized and tested positive for rabies on July 19. Park officials do not know who the visitor was that the bat crawled on.

A second bat found dead on the North Kaibab Trail on July 12 also tested positive for rabies. Park officials are not aware of any human exposure to that bat.

These two bats are the first rabies-positive animals identified by Grand Canyon National Park in 2014.

As a precautionary measure, any individual who may have had physical contact with either of these bats is encouraged to contact the park as soon as possible by telephone to 928-638-7767, and to see a health care provider.

Rabies is preventable if medical treatment (called post-exposure prophylaxis) is given following exposure to a rabid animal, but is almost always fatal if the post-exposure prophylaxis is not given prior to the development of symptoms.

Read more: Bats! Rabies! Shots! Oh My!

Rabies is a serious disease that can kill both animals and humans. Humans usually get rabies through contact with an infected animal’s saliva, such as a bite or scratch. Some scratches may be indiscernible to the human.

All mammals are susceptible to rabies, including bats, skunks, and foxes. In particular, rabies should be considered in animals that exhibit unusual or aggressive behavior or are not afraid of humans.

Grand Canyon National Park would like to remind visitors about the following things they can do to protect themselves from rabies:

  •  If you see sick or erratic behaving wildlife, do not approach or touch them. Notify a park employee or call the park’s 24-hour emergency communications center at telephone 928-638-7805
  • In areas where pets are allowed, make sure that pets are vaccinated and kept on a leash at all times
  • Teach your children to tell you if they were bitten or scratched by an animal
  • Anyone who has had contact with a bat or other wild animal in the park should notify a park employee as soon as possible
  • Visitors are reminded to observe and appreciate wildlife from a distance

Rabid bats have been documented in all 48 continental states. Cases of rabies in animals are reported in Coconino County, Arizona, each year.

“Recent data suggest that transmission of rabies virus can occur from minor, seemingly unimportant, or unrecognized bites from bats,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC.  “Human and domestic animal contact with bats should be minimized, and bats should never be handled by untrained and unvaccinated persons or be kept as pets.”

Additional information can be found at the CDC website.

Grand Canyon National Park is working with the National Park Service Office of Public Health and Wildlife Health Branch to protect the health and safety of visitors and wildlife in the park by testing any sick or dead wildlife.

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  • Bender July 22, 2014 at 11:42 am

    These are the bats we deserve, but not the ones we need.

  • Angelo July 22, 2014 at 12:19 pm

    I hope nobody gets hurt!

  • bob July 22, 2014 at 7:12 pm

    I’ve never had a rabid bad crawl on me. I’m so jealous.

  • St. George Resident July 22, 2014 at 11:43 pm

    It seems it would be helpful if authorities release some pictures of the person with the bat–hopefully someone can recognize the people and tell them to get treatment.

  • JOSH DALTON July 23, 2014 at 7:47 am

    We found a bat in one of our service bays yesterday!

    • Mat July 23, 2014 at 9:31 am

      no way? the bat cave is at Volkswagon?

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