A Gig Harbor family found a rabid bat in their house last week and now they’re being treated for rabies.
It’s the second rabid bat found in Pierce County this year.
The family — two adults in their 30s and two children under 10 — are getting the rabies vaccine as a precaution after a test confirmed the bat had the dangerous disease, the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department said Monday.
“They didn’t know if there had been exposure because the bat was in the sleeping area,” said health department spokeswoman Edie Jeffers.
The family followed proper handling procedures to capture the live bat, Jeffers said.
After capturing it Aug. 22, the family turned the bat over to the health department for testing.
The positive test result came back Aug. 25.
Transfer of rabies can occur when a bat contacts a person’s mucus membranes: eyes, nose, mouth. The disease is almost always fatal.
This is the second bat to test positive for rabies in Pierce County this year. In June, a South Hill man was bitten by a bat that later was found to have the disease. He underwent vaccinations and is fine, Jeffers said.
“It can be alarming to find a bat in your home, but the family did everything right to protect themselves,” Nigel Turner, the health department’s communicable disease division director said of the Gig Harbor family.
In 2016, Pierce County had one bat test positive for rabies. Statewide, 20 tested positive.
The health department has sent eight bats to the state lab for testing in 2017, including the two that came back positive for rabies, Jeffers said.
Most bats don’t have rabies, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The nocturnal creatures are an important part of the environment. They provide pollination and insect control.
Like mice, healthy bats avoid contact with humans.
BAT SAFETY TIPS
What to do if you encounter a bat at home:
In warmer weather, bats may try to find refuge from the heat by going indoors. If you find a bat in your home:
— Isolate: Close windows, room and closet doors; turn on lights and wait for the bat to land.
— Call: Contact the Health Department at 253-798-6410 so they can help you determine if you need to capture the bat—dead or alive—for testing.
If instructed to capture the bat, follow these steps:
— Wear heavy leather or thick rubber gloves. Never handle a bat with bare hands.
— Place a container like a food storage dish over the bat, then slide the lid under the container and tape the top.
— Punch small air holes in the lid of the container using a nail or small screwdriver.
— Place the bat in a cool area away from children.
To test the bat for rabies, the Health Department may need it alive. If that’s not an option, make sure the bat’s head is not damaged because its brain stem is used for testing.
How to bat-proof your home:
— Make sure open windows have intact screens, and keep doors without screens closed.
— Seal holes where bats can enter your home and roost.
— Contact a wildlife removal professional if you suspect bats are living in any part of your house.
— Source: Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department.