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Rabid bat clings to woman's arm in Sun City Center parking lot

Brazilian Free-Tailed Bat, one of the 13 species of bat that live in Florida. [Times files]
Published Jul. 19, 2018

SUN CITY CENTER — A Sun City Center woman got an unusual surprise as she used the bathroom in her home Monday — a rabid bat clinging to her arm.

According to the Florida Department of Health in Hillsborough County, the woman was helping a friend into a vehicle in a parking lot near the 4000 block of Upper Creek Drive when she felt something strike her arm. The woman told the health department she couldn't see what it was and went home.

"While at home she went to the restroom and discovered a small bat clinging to her arm," Kevin Watler, agency spokesman, said in a news release. "The woman immediately squished it with a towel."

Watler said the agency was contacted and a test of the squished bat came back positive for rabies, a disease that "can cause a nearly 100 percent fatal illness in humans and other mammals" if the virus develops after an exposure, according to the agency's website. However, Watler said, there is effective treatment to prevent exposure from turning into the rabies virus.

According to the agency, the woman received the pre-rabies treatment and is not expected to develop the virus.

Though bats and raccoons are the main wildlife source of rabies in Florida, this case is unusual, according to the agency.

"Usually you don't have a bat clinging to someone's arm," Watler said. "Usually when you have an exposure, it's someone messing with an animal or feeding an animal out in the wild. We usually don't have a bat clinging to someone's arm out in a parking lot. That's not something that's typical."

Watler said the agency believes the incident to be isolated, so it will not conduct door-to-door notifications in the area.

"When it's a wild animal, we don't go door-to-door unless we believe there is a high threat of other human exposures," he said. "We believe this is an isolated incident. There are no other cases or clusters in the area where an animal tested positive for rabies."

So far in 2018, four cats, two bats and a raccoon have been identified as rabid in Hillsborough County, agency officials said. In 2017, three animals exposed 10 people.

Anyone who suspects they may have been exposed to the virus by a rabid animal is encouraged to contact the health department at (813) 307-8000. If pets are suspected of exposure, contact Hillsborough County Pet Resource Center at (813) 744-5660.

Contact Daniel Figueroa IV at dfigueroa@tampabay.com. Follow @danuscripts.

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