A dozen people, mostly children, began receiving a series of shots Tuesday to prevent rabies after they handled a bat infected with the deadly virus found in the back yard of a Westside home, county health officials reported.
The bat, which was acting sick, was discovered by a child last Thursday and killed by the youngster's father, who flung it against a wall and left it in the bushes. Children at a christening party two days later retrieved the dead bat and made a game of tossing it from one to another.
It was only good luck that a parent mentioned the incident to a family physician on Monday, officials said. The physician, realizing the bat could have been rabid, reported the contact to county officials.
Investigators from the County Department of Health Services found the bat and determined Tuesday that it was rabid.
While none of the children or adults were bitten by the bat, health officials said the anti-rabies series is being administered as a precaution because the disease is usually transmitted merely through contact with the animal's saliva or body fluids. An actual bite was determined as the cause in only 1 of 19 of the most recent cases of human rabies traceable to bats, according to the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The incident is the first in the county this year in which a known rabid animal came in contact with humans, said Dr. C. Patrick Ryan, the department's chief of veterinary public health.