Rabies Turns Up In Bats At Grand Canyon National Park

Two bats at Grand Canyon National Park, including one that landed on a visitor who allowed it to crawl on their body for about 10 minutes, have tested positive for rabies, park officials said Sunday.

The unknown visitor was in front of the Tusayan Museum on the South Rim when the bat landed on them Wednesday. "The bat crawled on the visitor’s shorts, shirt, and leg for at least 10 minutes. A crowd gathered around the bat to take pictures," the park said. "This bat was later captured and euthanized and tested positive for rabies on July 19. The identity of the individual is unknown at this time."

Meanwhile, another bat that was found dead on the North Kaibab Trail on July 12 also tested positive for rabies. Park officials said there were no known human exposures to this bat.

As a precautionary measure, any individual who may have had physical contact with either of these bats is encouraged to contact the park as soon as possible at 928-638-7767 and to see a healthcare provider. Rabies is preventable if medical treatment (called post-exposure prophylaxis or PEP) is given following an exposure to a rabid animal, but is almost always fatal if PEP is not given prior to the development of symptoms, a park release said.

Rabies is a serious disease that can kill both animals and humans. Humans usually get rabies through contact with an infected animal’s saliva, such as from a bite or scratch. All mammals are susceptible to rabies, including bats, skunks, and foxes. In particular, rabies should be considered in animals that exhibit unusual or aggressive behavior or are not afraid of humans.

Grand Canyon officials remind visitors about the following things they can do to protect themselves from rabies:

· If you see sick or erratic behaving wildlife, do not approach or touch them. Notify a park employee or call the park’s 24-hour emergency communications center at 928-638-7805.

· In areas where pets are allowed, make sure that pets are vaccinated and kept on a leash at all times.

· Teach your children to tell you if they were bitten or scratched by an animal.

· Anyone who has had contact with a bat or other wild animal in the park should notify a park employee as soon as possible.

· Visitors are reminded to observe and appreciate wildlife from a distance.

Rabid bats have been documented in all 48 continental states. Cases of rabies in animals are reported in Coconino County, Arizona, each year. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “Recent data suggest that transmission of rabies virus can occur from minor, seemingly unimportant, or unrecognized bites from bats. Human and domestic animal contact with bats should be minimized, and bats should never be handled by untrained and unvaccinated persons or be kept as pets.”

Grand Canyon National Park is working with the National Park Service Office of Public Health and Wildlife Health Branch to protect the health and safety of visitors and wildlife in the park by testing any sick or dead wildlife.