Man treated for rabies after scratch from infected bat at Olympic National Park

A rabid bat scratched a man at Lake Crescent. Peninsula Daily News file photo (click on photo to enlarge)

PORT ANGELES — A 59-year-old man who was scratched by a rabies-infected bat at Lake Crescent last month is being treated with an anti-rabies vaccine, Olympic National Park officials said Monday.

The unidentified Port Angeles-area man was sitting on the shore near the Lake Crescent Lodge around dusk Aug. 12 when the bat flew out of a nearby tree and landed on him, park spokeswoman Rainey McKenna said.

The visitor knocked the bat to the ground and received a scratch in the process.

He used a towel to capture the mammal and alerted park staff, McKenna said.

Olympic National Park staff packaged the bat and brought it the Clallam County Health Department the Aug. 13.

Tests confirmed on Aug. 16 that the bat had the rabies virus.

The visitor is being treated with a rabies post-exposure prophylaxis, McKenna said.

“He does not have rabies,” McKenna said.

“This is a vaccine to prevent infection of the rabies virus.”

Said park Superintendent Sarah Creachbaum: “We’re very glad that this incident was reported to us and that the person involved is receiving treatment.”

“Rabies exposure is extremely rare, but fatal if untreated,” Creachbaum said in a Monday news release.

“Anyone observing unusual or aggressive behavior among park wildlife, including bats or other mammals that approach or appear fearless of humans, should inform a park ranger as soon as possible.”

McKenna said there are two other known cases of rabies in bats in Olympic National Park.

A child was bitten by a bat in the Elwha Valley in 1975 and a woman was scratched by a bat in the Ozette Campground in 2008.

Park officials say the risk of acquiring rabies is extremely low, but the disease is fatal if left untreated after exposure.

There may be no visible bite mark or scratch left on the skin because of a bat’s small tooth size.

Any bat encounter or exposure should be immediately reported to a park ranger and the person should consult a health care professional, McKenna said.

Information about bats and rabies exposure is available at the Centers for Disease Control website, www.tinyurl.com/PDN-CDC, the National Park Service Public Health Program website, www.tinyurl.com/PND-NPSbats, and the Olympic National Park website, www.tinyurl.com/PDN-ONPsafety.

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Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5072, or at [email protected]

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