University officials found a rabid juvenile bat in a widely used academic building last week, prompting them to issue a campus-wide alert about the dangerous animal.
On the morning of Aug. 21, a housekeeper found an unconscious bat on the fifth floor of Funger Hall, an academic building located at 22nd and G streets. University Police Department officials placed the bat in a box and gave it to the Department of Health.
On Thursday night, the animal tested positive for rabies, a lethal virus that affects the neurological system. The following morning the University issued an online “Rabid Bat Alert.”
“It appears to be an isolated incident,” said Michael Freedman, vice president for communications. “We haven’t found any other bats in Funger or Duques through these walkthroughs.”
As of Saturday morning, the University was not aware that any individuals had come into contact with the animal, Freedman said. He added that notice signs were posted in the two buildings instructing people to keep all windows closed.
Freedman said it is unclear how the bat got into the building.
An independent pest management company thoroughly inspected the building on Saturday morning and reported it did not find any evidence of other bats.
Peggy Keller, chief of the Bureau of Community Hygiene at the D.C. Department of Health, was responsible for transporting and testing the bat.
“It’s important that we investigate whether there is a possibility that anybody came into contact with the bat and to look at what the contact was,” Keller said. Rabies can be prevented by a series of shots called Prophylaxis if caught early.
There is no cure for rabies after symptoms of the disease appear, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Web site.
More disoriented juvenile bats come into contact with humans during the summer months because they are kicked out of their mother’s nest and left to fend for themselves, Keller said.
The University is encouraging members of the GW community to avoid wild animals around campus. Anyone who spots a potentially rabid animal should contact UPD at 994-6111.
Bats with rabies are often more aggressive, Keller said. She added that raccoons, who often carry the disease, “might appear drunken,” tilting from side to side.
“In our city we are very lucky that we have a lot of wonderful wildlife,” Keller said. “Just because you see wild animals in the city does not mean they are rabid, but you (still) shouldn’t handle them.”
This article appeared in the September 4, 2007 issue of the Hatchet.