8-year-old attacked by rabid bat as she
By Kathy Chaffin
Three members of a Salisbury family are undergoing preventive treatment for rabies after coming in contact with an infected bat in their swimming pool on Monday.
Leigh Grimes of 235 Deer Road said her husband, John, their 14-year-old son and 8-year-old daughter took the first in a series of rabies treatments after being notified on Wednesday that the bat had tested positive for the disease. The treatment consisted of shots with the number dependent upon weight, she said.
Her husband had to take five shots; her son, four, and her daughter, three. All three are scheduled to receive additional one-shot treatments on Days 3, 7, 14 and 28 after the initial shots.
So far, Leigh Grimes said they had suffered no side effects from the shots.
Rowan County Animal Control Officer Tommy Staton was called to the residence to pick up the bat Monday evening so it could be sent for testing at the State Veterinarian’s Office. It was the seventh caes of rabies reported in Rowan County this year.
The Grimes’ daughter was swimming in the family pool at about 6:30 p.m. ó during daylight hours before bats usually come out ó when the infected animal swooped down and hit her in the head, her mother said. She ducked underwater to get away from the bat, but when she came back up, it hit her feet.
Though the bat did not hit her husband and son, Leigh Grimes said they are taking the treatments because they retrieved it from the pool with a net and put it in a bucket. The bat had white foam around its mouth, she said.
“Of course, we were all scared,” she said, “but we were hoping it wasn’t going to be positive.”
Staton said the bat was dead when he arrived at the Grimes residence. “I don’t know if the chlorine killed it or if it drowned,” he said.
Leigh Grimes said the bat was still alive when her husband and son put it in the bucket, but “it was on its last leg.”
While her family was taking the treatments in the Rowan Regional Medical Center Emergency Department, Grimes said they met another family finishing up preventive treatments for rabies.
Though Rowan County Animal Control was not aware of any other human contact with rabid animals, Salisbury City Animal Control Officer Brandon Avant said there was a bat captured in an apartment that didn’t have enough brain matter for testing.
“We went ahead and advised a person to go to the doctor,” he said. Avant said he did not know if the occupant of the apartment and any others who may have been inside it were taking treatments.
Though rabies is a fatal disease, human rabies vaccine is available for people who have been exposed.
Leigh Grimes said she and her husband treated the pool with extra chlorine after the bat encounter. Though their daughter was traumatized by the rabies shots, she said she wasn’t at all scared to go back in the pool.
“She understands it was just a freak thing,” her mother said. “I guess we’re pretty lucky this is the first time this has happened.”
The Grimeses notified parents in the neighborhood about what had happened, but Leigh said Friday that several children were back in the pool Thursday night.
Though bats have been spotted in the neighborhood before, she said, “there’s no warning when they will appear. You just do your best.”
Leigh Grimes said everyone in the neighborhood keeps their pets vaccinated for rabies, so they weren’t concerned about any dogs or cats having contact with the rabid bat.
Because any bats found inside homes are automatically sent for testing, people who live in the houses are urged to undergo treatments if they test positive. Grimes said she knows a family in Charlotte who had to take the treatments after a rabid bat was found in their house about a month and a half ago.
“I’m just glad treatment is available,” she said.
Leigh Grimes said the staff at Rowan Regional, where she works as a nurse, educated them on rabies and took very good care of her family members.
“They told us that since they’ve been vaccinated, they’re covered for life,” she said. “If they’re ever exposed again, they’ll probably have to have a booster shot, but they’re covered.”