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Rabid bats on the rise in L.A. County

Rabid bats found in L.A. County
The number of bats found to have rabies has increased sharply this year in Los Angeles County.

So far in 2011, 22 rabid bats have been confirmed, according to the veterinary public health division of the county health department. In a typical year, about nine are found.

In the Santa Clarita Valley alone, tests indicated rabies in nine bats.

Most bats do not have rabies, and they are a protected species valued for their role in controlling insects. People who encounter bats should be especially careful because a healthy bat is usually skilled at avoiding people, officials said.

The rabid bats found locally include ones found walking on the ground and during daylight, uncommon behaviors for a bat, officials said.

Untreated, rabies is fatal for people as well as their pets, which should be vaccinated and kept away from contact with wild animals when possible.

Rabid bats in Ventura County attracted attention in July when officials isolated them to five homes within four blocks near Moorpark Community College. One home was quarantined after authorities confirmed that two rabid bats came from a nest beneath the roof tiles.

One bat had bitten the homeowner, Steve Spence, who has received shots to prevent rabies. His bulldog, Pumba, picked up a rabid bat, which led to the dog getting shots and also being quarantined.

Other fauna-based challenges also have plagued Southern California this summer.

In Redondo Beach, aggressive bees stung a 95-year-old man hundreds of times -- he survived -- and chased away an exterminator before finally meeting their end via a second exterminator.

In early August, after tallying 45 dead birds and 115 mosquito samples with the West Nile virus, the highest levels in three years, officials warned residents to take precautions, including clearing stagnant water and using insect repellent.

The virus is carried in birds and transmitted to humans through mosquitoes that feed on infected birds. Most people don't get seriously ill from the virus, but four people have died from it in L.A. County this year.

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-- Howard Blume

Photo: The number of rabid bats found in L.A. County has risen. Credit: KTLA

 
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L.A. Now is the Los Angeles Times’ breaking news section for Southern California. It is produced by more than 80 reporters and editors in The Times’ Metro section, reporting from the paper’s downtown Los Angeles headquarters as well as bureaus in Costa Mesa, Long Beach, San Diego, San Francisco, Sacramento, Riverside, Ventura and West Los Angeles.
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