PROVO, Utah -- There is a large degree of irony that the Director of Nurses for the Utah County Health Department, Steven Mickelson, actually witnessed a man get exposed to rabies this week.
“Somebody cleaning up around the park area and saw a bat on the ground, picked it up and I happened to see this person and asked them to put it in a bag so I could take it for testing,” Mickelson said.
That bat and another one, which a person picked up after their dog brought it home, both tested positive for rabies.
“Bats don’t generally, you won’t see them for the most part. So if you see a bat, chances of it being ill is pretty likely,” Mickelson said.
If humans are exposed, health professionals won’t take any chances.
“If we were to wait until they showed symptoms it would be too late,” Mickelson said.
They’re immediately given the painful and pricey treatment, which consists of five shots within three weeks.
“This medicine is especially difficult and it hurts going in. It’s also kind of pricey so you’re spending a little bit of money, in the thousands to get this series completed,” Mickelson said.
The symptoms are frightening, which is why all dogs are required to get rabies shots. Dogs who do contract rabies become abnormally aggressive and start biting people. It’s the same virus that attacks the nervous system in humans and the symptoms in humans can be unpredictable, but just as scary.
“You get some tightness in your jaw, some frothing at the mouth. You get some desire to drink water but can’t drink water,” Mickelson said.
Once humans start developing those symptoms, it’s very unlikely they will survive.
“It’s 100 percent fatal so we don’t have the freedom to wait until you have symptoms to start treating rabies,” Mickelson said.
The message from the health department is simple. If you see a bat, don’t touch it and if you do, contact them immediately so you can receive treatment.