41 West High students, 7 Layton High students recommended to receive rabies vaccines

This file photo shows a biologist holding a little brown bat. Photo: Wikipedia Commons/Dolovis

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah, Sept. 28, 2017 (Gephardt Daily) — A total of 41 students from West High School and seven students from Layton High have been recommended to receive rabies vaccines Thursday after bats infested the auditoriums of both schools this month, officials said.

Davis School District spokesperson Chris Williams and the Salt Lake County Health Department said Layton High sent two students to the hospital receive a vaccine Thursday. The school is attempting to contact five other students to receive a rabies vaccine after bats infested the auditorium, Williams said.

An estimated 2,000 bats found at Layton High School this week are part of an annual migration the school district has come to expect, a Davis School District spokesman said. It’s just the large scale of the infestation that caught officials off guard.

Professional crews already have removed hundreds of bats. Williams has said crews use mildly adhesive boards, and pressed them against the bats.

The animals are released elsewhere. Bats are protected under the law, and cannot legally be exterminated.

Williams has said that auditorium dampers were not closed properly. Cooler temperatures outside probably added to the appeal of the auditorium as a sheltering spot, he said. Only a few bats have been seen outside the auditorium, which is currently closed to use.

After all bats are removed, the auditorium will be fully cleaned.

Last Friday, health officials recommended that people who had direct contact with any of the 200 bats that infested West High School take the series of four rabies shots.

Eileen Risk, a top epidemiologist with the Salt Lake County Health Department, said most of those were students at the school, but a few were staff members.

Direct contact is defined as skin-to-skin, skin-to-fang, or skin-to-claw contact.

According to the Center for Disease Control, only about 6 percent of bats have rabies, but the most common cause of rabies in humans is exposure to infected bats.

And by the time the symptoms of rabies become apparent, it is too late to treat the disease, which is “uniformly fatal,” Risk said.

The treatment is a series of four vaccines, the first accompanied by a Rabies Immune Globulin shot. The series is administered over two weeks, and is not as painful as it was in the past, when shots had to be given in the abdomen. Now, the shots feel about the same as any common vaccine, Risk said. Risk said she gets reports of bats at West High and multiple other schools each year.

The bats at West were captured and relocated, according to officials.

Windows that had been left open were closed, and cracks and holes in the building were sealed, district officials have said. The school is also located along the bats’ annual migration route.

People can get rabies from physical contact with infected bats. The Salt Lake County Heath Department recommends no one make physical contact with a bat, and anyone who has should contact their doctor and local health department immediately.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides the following information about rabies on its website.

The rabies virus is transmitted through saliva or brain/nervous system tissue. You can only get rabies by coming in contact with these specific bodily excretions and tissues.

It’s important to remember that rabies is a medical urgency but not an emergency. Decisions should not be delayed.

Wash any wounds immediately. One of the most effective ways to decrease the chance for infection is to wash the wound thoroughly with soap and water.

See your doctor for attention for any trauma due to an animal attack before considering the need for rabies vaccination.

Your doctor, possibly in consultation with your state or local health department, will decide if you need a rabies vaccination. Decisions to start vaccination, known as postexposure prophylaxis (PEP), will be based on your type of exposure and the animal you were exposed to, as well as laboratory and surveillance information for the geographic area where the exposure occurred.

In the United States, postexposure prophylaxis consists of a regimen of one dose of immune globulin and four doses of rabies vaccine over a 14-day period. Rabies immune globulin and the first dose of rabies vaccine should be given by your health care provider as soon as possible after exposure. Additional doses or rabies vaccine should be given on days 3, 7, and 14 after the first vaccination. Current vaccines are relatively painless and are given in your arm, like a flu or tetanus vaccine.



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