A day after the Sacramento County Division of Public Health announced it was searching for a woman who had handled a rabid bat at the Target store in Rancho Cordova, officials say they have found and interviewed the woman.
After releasing a photo of the woman Thursday, the health division said Friday in an update that it had located her, and an interview with her gave health officials reason to believe others may have handled the bat.
Sacramento County spokeswoman Brenda Bongiorno said the woman found the bat in the parking lot in front of Target at the Rancho Cordova Town Center shopping area on Olson Drive. The incident happened during the daytime on Sept. 19, according to Bongiorno.
“From what I understand, it was in a parking lot, and she didn’t want others to touch it.” Bongiorno said. “And so, when she went in to scoop it up, she doesn’t know during that time if somebody touched it.”
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The woman reportedly turned the bat in to Target employees after the encounter, Bongiorno said. Rancho Cordova animal control tested the bat, which came back positive for rabies, the county announced Thursday.
“Not everyone that touches a rabies-infected animal is going to have to have treatment, but we just want to talk to everyone,” Bongiorno said. “Basically what we really want to do is just talk to people, find out if they touched it, get some information and get an idea of what happened.”
Anyone with information regarding the incident is urged to call the 24-hour Sacramento County Public Health phone number: 916-875-5881.
Bongiorno noted that bats are part of the natural environment in the Sacramento area. However, if they’re seen behaving unusually, that’s a warning sign they could be rabid and pose a threat.
“Seeing them in twilight hours, swooping down and feeding on bugs during the day, that’s normal behavior,” she said, but people should be mindful and avoid bats that appear to be in distress, sick or dead.
Coming across a bat behaving strangely in public, bystanders should call 311 in Sacramento County to report it, or local animal control if 311 is not available in the area, Bongiorno said. The county also advised pet owners to be sure to vaccinate their pets for rabies.
Rabies symptoms in humans include lethargy, aggressiveness and trouble walking.
Bongiorno also wanted to clear up misconceptions about rabies transmission.
“Really it’s through the saliva of a bite that it becomes a concern. That’s the typical transmission.”
Coincidentally, Sept. 28 is World Rabies Day, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The awareness day has been observed since 2007.