OLYMPIA -- Thurston County Public Health and Social Services is reporting that a dead bat found inside the Jo-Ann Fabric & Craft Store in west Olympia tested positive for rabies. Two customers discovered the bat on a shelf in the store's Halloween section on Sept. 9. The department was notified on Monday, Sept. 12 and sent the bat to the Washington State Public Health Laboratories for testing. On Sept. 14, the lab notified Public Health and Social Services that the bat had rabies. The two customers who found the bat received rabies vaccinations as a precaution because they physically handled the bat.
County health officials are asking customers of west Olympia Jo-Ann's Fabrics to call them if they may have touched the bat at the store between Sept. 2, 2011 and Sept. 9, 2011. The Public Health and Social Services Department can be reached at 360-867-2500 and will be answering calls this evening until 9 p.m. and again Saturday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
"During the late summer and fall, bats become more visible in our community," said Dr. Diana Yu, Thurston County Health Officer. "The only people at risk of rabies are those who touched the bat. People who walked, shopped, or worked at Jo-Ann's are not at risk unless they came in contact with the bat." It is unknown how the bat got into the store.
Rabies is spread through saliva of an infected animal. Rabies transmission may occur if an infected animal bites someone, or if the animal's saliva comes in contact with a person's eyes, nose, mouth or open wound. If you see a bat, dead or alive, don't touch it or play with it.
For more information about rabies, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at www.cdc.gov/rabies
or the Washington State Department of Health at www.doh.wa.gov/EHSPHL/factsheet/rabiesfct.htm.
The Public Health and Social Services recorded message line is available 24-7 and will be updated to provide current information about this issue, 360-709-3080. Information will also be posted on the department website at www.co.thurston.wa.us/health.###