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Rabid bat gets tangled in 3-year-old girl’s hair

October 7, 2011 |  2:50 pm

A 3-year-old girl in Lake Elsinore was exposed to rabies after a rabid bat got tangled in her hair as she played in her front yard.

The incident happened Saturday at about 8 p.m. on the 2900 block of Enterprise Way. The girl's mom pulled the animal out of her daughter's hair after covering her hand in cloth. Animal control officers then euthanized it and sent it to a Riverside County public health lab, which confirmed it was rabid, said Officer Monique Middleton of Animal Friends of the Valleys.

"It's really unfortunate," she said. "The bat was probably chasing an insect and somehow crossed paths with this little girl."

It was not clear if the girl was bitten, but she began receiving a series of injections just in case. Middleton said the family was shook up over the ordeal and declined to comment.

"It's the kind of thing you see in horror movies," she said.

The animal control agency, which services several cities in Southwest Riverside County, had sent about 20 bats for rabies testing this year. This was the first to test positive in a couple years.

Middleton said the flying mammals are common. They move in the night, attracted to insects, which congregate near the light. They are almost blind, she said, and not prone to attack humans. Usually dogs or cats drag them into people's homes.

Countywide, three bats tested positive for rabies last year and nine, so far, this year, said Barbara Cole, Riverside County's disease control director.

She said anyone exposed to a bat should seek treatment soon since any direct contact can be dangerous, not just bites or scratches. Also, because bats have such tiny teeth it's hard to tell if you've been bitten.

The rabies virus attacks the central nervous system and is almost always fatal. Symptoms include fever, headache and weakness.

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-- Esmeralda Bermudez

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