Did You Touch a Bat Last Night in a Men's Room in Woodinville? Here's How Not to Die

Comments

1

Mar-tha.

2

umm... I handled a bat when I was 17 in my neighbor's house - it was sleeping on their vacuum cleaner. am I dead?

3

@2

I'm pretty sure this is the bad place.

4

@2

I predict you will be dead before you are 117.

5

“Handled a bat?” God damn it millennials! You can’t expect us olds to keep up with the cryptic euphemisms you kids use these days. Just spell the depraved sex act you mean already.

6

Why did the staff let it go?

7

This is why whenever I use a public restroom I assume a wide stance and stay alert to the sound of tapping. Can't be too careful.

8

I mean, I understand The Stranger's writers are mostly confirmed city mice, and some of them are the sort who have good reason to be a bit germophobic about handling things in public restrooms, but good grief.

It's a bat, for heaven's sake. Anyone who's spent five minutes living anywhere outside an urban center has had a run-in or two with these little guys, and come to no harm.

9

@8 bats are the main cause of rabies in humans in the Americas. It has nothing to do with being a city slicker and everything to do with knowing public health.

10

It’s a safety precaution because rabies is serious business. Unfortunately the only way to confirm a bat is a carrier is to cut its head off.

11

@6, that was my first thought, too. WTF? Sure, maybe the average Joe-public might not know the bat needs to be tested, but you'd think that people that work for public parks should know that one. Jesus, that's some biology 101 there.

Catch the bat, test it, crisis averted. Or blithely let it go, release a panicked press release, and start a public freak-out. Good job, King County parks!

12

You know how they test bats for rabies? They take their brain out. You can't test a live bat for rabies. Or a live dog, for that matter. Brain extraction, only way to do it.

13

@9

From the CDC:

"Human rabies cases in the United States are rare, with only 1 to 3 cases reported annually. Twenty-three cases of human rabies have been reported in the United States in the past decade (2008-2017). Eight of these were contracted outside of the U.S. and its territories."

and

"The number of rabies-related human deaths in the United States has declined from more than 100 annually at the turn of the century to one or two per year in the 1990’s. Modern day prophylaxis has proven nearly 100% successful."

Maybe you're right, it's not just city vs. country, it's also a matter of recognizing shrill alarmism based on a misleading use of statistics.

By all means, yes, go get your PEP protocol if you've been bitten (that's "bitten", not "bumped into in the dark" or "had some non-injurious handling of") a bat. But spare us the self-righteous scolding in the name of "public health," OK?

14

As far as public health is concerned, risks are considered not only for their probability but also the severity of the hazard. Rabies can be easily resolved if it is caught early but once symptoms appear it leads to a horrific, certain death. For that reason it is standard protocol in every community to capture and test any bat that is found indoors, and any person suspected of even potential exposure to be vaccinated immediately, and household pets should also be vaccinated and quarantined. Rabies is no joke.

15

I should add, the reason the number of human cases is so low is in part because these measures are taken. The success of an interventionist is not proof that there is nothing to worry about.

16

*intervention

18

It could be part of a Shakespearean insult:"Begone, though rabid fellow, thoug bat-handler in the unclean'd rooms of men!".

19

Why do we have a preventative rabies vaccine for animals, but not for humans? Also, if you do have to get rabies shots, do they still have to give them to you in the stomach area?

20

@19

We do have human rabies vaccines, and people with high risk of exposure (vets, certain travelers, etc) are routinely vaccinated.

Post-exposure rabies treatment is also via vaccine (and immunoglobin, on the first day)-- PEP stands for " Post-Exposure Prophylaxis."

We don't vaccinate the whole human population because 1) there's no epidemiological reason to do so (humans can't act as carriers) and 2) the risk of infection is extremely low (due to successful vaccination programs for pets and livestock, as Blip said).

Modern rabies PEP is comparable to a series of 4-5 flu shots a few days apart-- in the shoulder for adults, in the thigh for kids. The old regimen of stomach muscle shots on 14 successive days hasn't been used in 30 years or more, since the Duck Embryo Vaccine was phased out in favor of safer, more effective vaccines developed using human cell lines.

21

@19, We do but it has side-effects that would cause more problems than it fixes by using it as a prophylactic. Rabies is slow-acting (has to travel through the nervous system to the brain) so it’s just as effective to vaccinate someone who has potentially been exposed if it’s done in time.

22

@21

Your reasoning there kinda contradicts your earlier argument about weighing morbidity into the risk calculation.

If humans could act as carriers, we'd vaccinate everyone. It's a matter of transmission and populations -- i.e. epidemiology -- not individual risk.

23

From the CDC:

"Rabies virus is transmitted through saliva and brain/nervous system tissue. Only these specific bodily excretions and tissues transmit rabies virus. If contact with either of these has occurred, the type of exposure should be evaluated to determine if postexposure prophylaxis is necessary.

"Contact such as petting or handling an animal, or contact with blood, urine or feces does not constitute an exposure. No postexposure prophylaxis is needed in these situations."

https://www.cdc.gov/rabies/exposure/materials.html

24

@22 no it really doesn’t. The vaccine is risky so it’s used sparingly / onlt as needed.

25

@24

I have no idea what you're talking about when you say rabies vaccines are "risky."

Present-day rabies vaccines are complete safe, with the most severe possible side effects, apart from the allergic reactions any vaccine can cause, are rash, fever and joint pain -- exactly the same as reactions to MMR vaccines, which are routinely given to all children in the US.

26

Risky in the sense that the side effects from 300 million inoculations is a greater strain on the health care system than a few cases and however-many exposures per year. Risk in the epidemiological sense; at the population level.

Even safe vaccines carry risk - giulliane barre syndrome, encephalitis, siezures on the rare but extreme end, fever and mild physical symptoms of illness on the other. The immune system is extraordinarily potent and any time you’re challenging it you run the risk of provoking a palpable response in a small but not insignificant number of people. It adds up, and it’s not worth cost when public health resources are finite and our existing protocols work just fine anyway.

Mind you there are vaccines for all sorts of diseases that are more common than rabies, many that can be fatal, and we don’t just give them to everybody because not everyone needs them. They are given to people based on their risk profile - age, travel, occupation, exposure, etc. Public health is a science and I promise you there are professionals who have exhaustively studied all of this and they know what they’re doing.

27

@26

Oh, OK, you agree with me then-- the reason we don't vaccinate everyone for rabies isn't due to infection/morbidity risk calculations for individuals, but because unlike the MMR vaccine, there is no epidemiological reason to do so.

28

@8 It's not a matter of being germaphobic, or being city folks who don't understand wildlife. It's about being pragmatic, and allowing potentially affected people make informed decisions. The parks staff clearly did not see signs of rabies, or they would have taken the bat in for a destructive test.

@11, Because the only way to test a bat is to kill it, most wildlife professionals don't just kill and test every bat that may have encountered humans, unless it was showing signs of rabies, or attacking humans or pets, which is often a sign of rabies. Since they didn't see signs of rabies, they decided to spare the bat's life, so it can keep feasting on pests that are a problem for us.

29

@28

I think a much more likely explanation is that the "parks staff" in question was someone hired to clean the bathrooms, who had a kind heart and no training whatsoever in wildlife contact. And when someone who did have such training eventually heard about it, they freaked out a little and issued a kinda panicky press release, instead of taking three deep breaths and calming down for a minute before informing the public.

...or maybe the press release was calm and sober, but the writer for The Stranger who picked up the story is the kind of city dweller who freaks right the fuck out at the very idea of having a bat anywhere nearby.