A 59-year-old man is undergoing rabies prevention treatment after being scratched by a bat who had the virus in front of Lake Crescent Lodge in Olympic National Park last Tuesday, Aug. 12.
The visitor, who was not identified, was sitting on the shore of Lake Crescent around dusk when a bat flew out of a nearby tree and landed on him. The visitor knocked the bat to the ground and got a scratch in the process. The visitor used a towel to capture the bat and alerted park staff.
Park staff packaged and transported the bat to the Clallam County Environmental Health Department for rabies testing and the visitor began preventative treatment for the rabies virus.
On Saturday, test results confirmed the bat had the rabies virus.
There are only two other known cases of rabies in bats in Olympic National Park — in 1975, when a child was bitten by a bat in the Elwha Valley, and in 2008, when a woman was scratched by a bat in the Ozette Campground.
The risk of acquiring rabies is extremely low, but the disease is fatal if not treated early after exposure, making it vital to treat any possible threat of exposure seriously, the park reported. Since there may be no visible bite mark or scratch left on the skin because of a bat’s small tooth size, bat bites may go undetected. Any bat encounter or exposure should be immediately reported to a park ranger and a health professional should be consulted, the Park Service added.
Visitors are advised not to handle or approach bats. Bats, like all wild animals in the park, are generally fearful of humans and will avoid people. If an animal does not move away or moves closer, visitors should move away and maintain a distance of at least 50 yards.
More information about bats and rabies exposure is available at the Centers for Disease Control website, http://www.cdc.gov/rabies/exposure/animals/bats.html, the National Park Service Public Health Program website http://www.nps.gov/public_health/index.htm, and on the Olympic National Park website http://www.nps.gov/olym/planyourvisit/wildlife-safety.htm.