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Dead bat at Laguna Niguel park tests positive for rabies

April 26, 2012 | 10:29 pm

A dead bat found at Laguna Niguel Regional Park has tested positive for rabies, and Orange County health officials are asking anyone who may have encountered the animal to contact them.

The bat was discovered on a walkway near La Paz Road by a park ranger about 11:30 a.m. Sunday, said Nicole Stanfield, a spokeswoman for the Orange County Health Care Agency. Anyone who touched the bat is asked to call the agency at (714) 834-8180.

The rabies virus, which is found in saliva, can be fatal and is spread through biting or broken skin. Because bats have small teeth, their bites can go unnoticed.

According to the agency, most cases of human rabies in recent years have been from bat strains of the virus.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website states that preventive treatment is vital to survival as death is more likely once a person begins showing symptoms, which include fever, headache and general weakness and discomfort.

Rabies infects the central nervous system, and as the disease progresses, one may experience insomnia, hallucinations, anxiety, an increase in saliva production and slight or partial paralysis.

Skunks and bats are the most common carriers of rabies in California, Stanfield said Thursday evening. Eleven rabies-infected bats were reported in Orange County last year, one of which was found at the same park.

The agency recommends that people avoid wild animals, vaccinate their pets, keep screens on their windows and doors, and contact animal control if a bat appears. If you are bitten, wash the wound with soap and water and contact your doctor.

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-- Corina Knoll

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