Friday, September 30, 2005

Bat-poking, not a good idea

Just got a university-wide email from the Director Environmental Health & Safety at UT-Austin.
"If you touched a bat near E.P. Schoch (EPS) on Tuesday, September 27, 2005, you need to immediately contact the Austin/Travis Country Health Services at 972-6055 or The Texas Department of State Health Services at 254-778-6744. If your phone contact is outside normal working hours, please leave a message and phone number. State 'you were exposed to a bat Tuesday at UT-Austin and were advised to contact them.' These messages are monitored and calls returned every few hours."
Sigh. Suffice to say, touching bats is a bad idea. Bats on the ground are usually wounded or sick. Wounded or sick mammals can bite defensively (though apparently bats mostly don't). Animal bites transmit rabies. Ergo...

Bat Conservation International has a great page that answers questions about rabies transmission from bats (it's rare). Also on that page is the text of a 1999 resolution from the North American Symposium on Bat Research. It outlines the symposium's opposition to the idea that all bat contact incidents be medically handled as bites, i.e. rabies shots, based on an evidence-free "undetected bite hypothesis".

This whole thing is fascinating to me as a person deeply interested in public health, emergency room treatment, and bats. Two more things to love about Austin; home of Bat Conservation International and North America's largest urban bat colony. Oh, and hospitals.

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