SAN MARCOS — On Tuesday, a bat found near Pizza Nova on North Twin Oaks Road was found to be positive for rabies, according to county health officials.
Five children spotted the bat under a tree near the restaurant a few days before the County Public Health Laboratory’s rabies result was confirmed.
Concerns are that the children or others may have touched the bat, possibly exposing them to the disease.
The county is looking for help in finding the five children and any others that might have been in the area and have come into contact with the animal, according to Craig Sturak, communications officer with the County Health and Human Services Agency.
Sturak said the bat was brought to the county after the Humane Society of Escondido notified Project Wildlife, which brought the bat to the Agency.
“The laboratory test requires about four hours from the time the lab receives the specimen,” said Sturak. “Most of the time required is outside the lab’s control — such as the time from getting the notice of a suspect animal, picking up the animal, transport, brain extraction process, and transport to the lab.”
Sturak said that bats are the most common carrier of rabies in San Diego County.
However, they don’t know the rate of rabies in the entire bat population, because they only test those that are dead or sick, said Sturak.
“This testing process biases our data to appear as a relatively high percentage, because it is measured rabid bats per bats tested (dead or sick). The bats tested are essentially preselected for a high rate of rabies because they are dead or sick. The rabies rate in bats is also seasonal, most being found in the summer,” he added.
From Jan. 1 of this year to Oct. 21, the positive rate for bats that the county has tested is 10 percent.
“That is based on five positive bats out of 51 total tested. But, remember, the population of bats we test is already dead and sick,” Sturak said.
For those who haven’t handled the bat, there is no health risk, but Sturak added that if someone handled the bat and was bitten, or scratched, or had an open wound or mucous membrane that came in contact with bat saliva, then they could have been exposed to a disease that is nearly 100 percent fatal.
According to the Center for Disease Control, the first symptoms of rabies may be similar to that of the flu, including general weakness, discomfort, headache or fever.
Contact the County’s Health and Human Services Agency by calling (619) 692-8499.