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Officials look for man who handled rabid bat

Posted: April 29, 2009 6:16 p.m.
Updated: April 29, 2009 6:16 p.m.
 
A man who recently handled a rabid bat outside Valencia grocery store is the object of a search by county public health officials.

The man, described as white, in his 40s and standing between 5-feet, 8-inches to 6 feet tall, with a mustache or goatee, reportedly found the bat in the Bristol Farms parking lot on April 21 before bringing it in a box to a local veterinary clinic.

If the man handled the bat with his bare hands as he scooped it into the box, public officials said he may need to receive rabies preventative treatment.

"We don't really know what he did with the bat," said Karen Ehnert, senior veterinarian for Veterinary Public Health. "If he did handle it with his hands, there's potential he might have been bitten or gotten a little bit of saliva into a fresh cut."

The man told veterinary clinic staffers that he had scooped up the bat into the box, but it is unclear whether he used his bare hands to do the scooping. His name and contact information were not recorded before he left the clinic but employees report seeing him in a late 1990s model dark-blue Chevy Silverado pickup truck, Ehnert said.

Ehnert said public health prefers to treat people within 10 days of exposure to rabies. Today would mark the ninth day from the man's possible exposure. Signs asking for the man to identify himself were posted around the market, but public health has not heard from the man.

The man wouldn't necessarily feel sick yet, because the time from exposure to getting ill is generally about 30 to 60 days, Ehnert said.

"But you need treatment before you get sick because once you get sick, there is no treatment and it is a fatal disease," she said. "We're getting concerned (for the man) as each day passes."

Ehnert said the man, or anyone who might know who he is, should contact the Public Health Acute Communicable Disease Control unit at (213) 240-7941.

Bats are fairly common in the Santa Clarita area, Ehnert said. Between 10 and 15 percent of sick bats found on the ground are rabid, she said.

"We don't recommend people picking them up with their bare hands," she said. "Get a box or something to put over it to contain it and then contact a local animal-control agency."

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