8-year-old Harvard boy being treated after suspected contact with rabid bat

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As Crissy Hansen and her 8-year-old son, Gage, entered their home in an unincorporated area near Harvard on Sept. 16, they discovered an unwelcome visitor: a bat the McHenry County Department of Health recently confirmed was rabid.

“Before we could turn around, the bat literally dive-bombed and attacked [Gage] and bit him near the wrist,” Hansen said.

Hansen’s husband took action and shot the bat with a BB gun and placed it in a small container in case it needed to be tested. The family believes the bat may have gotten into the house through the chimney.

After being bitten, Gage had been experiencing some pain. But since the bite didn’t draw blood, Hansen said she didn’t think the situation was too serious.

However, after spending the night researching bites from rabid animals, Hansen said she learned that the bite of an infected animal does not have to draw blood to transmit the rabies virus.

Gage was taken to Northwestern Medicine McHenry Hospital the following morning, where doctors advised Hansen to bring the bat to Animal Control services. Hansen said she also learned from doctors that bats’ teeth are so short and small that, like acupuncture needles, they may not draw blood or cause pain.

A few hours later, Hansen said she had received a call from a nurse asking her to bring her son back to the hospital for rabies treatment.

Hansen said her son completed his third of four treatments on Monday. His last treatment will be in two weeks.

“They’re big, painful in-the-muscle shots,” Hansen said.

Hansen said she thought the whole situation was handled well and commended Animal Control for prioritizing the rabies testing.

This is the second rabid bat to have been found in McHenry County in recent weeks, McHenry County Health officials said.

So far, there have been 48 rabid bats reported in Illinois, health officials said.

In August, a rabid bat was found outside a home in Woodstock where no humans made contact with it, but several dogs may have been exposed. Authorities at the time said the dogs had been playing with the bat. The pets were up to date on their rabies vaccinations and were monitored.

Bats are only tested when they make contact with humans. The best way to avoid rabies is to avoid exposure. Rabies is a fatal viral disease that can only be confirmed in a laboratory.

The MCDH advised pet owners to keep their animals up to date on vaccinations to prevent rabies and to add an additional layer of protection for people in the home if a rabid animal bites a pet.

Call Animal Control at 815-459-6222 if a person or a pet has had direct contact with a bat. It’s important the bat be in good condition with the head intact and either alive or recently deceased in order to complete rabies testing, according to the department.

A bat is potentially rabid if it is active in the day, found in a place where bats are not usually seen such as a home or is unable to fly. Health officials warn to never touch a bat with bare hands, rather use a shovel or plastic bag to ensure no direct contact.

If a bat is found inside, contain it in a room by closing the door. If a bat is found outside and it’s thought there may have been exposure to a person or child, or if the bat is injured, place an upside-down bucket over the bat, if possible.

Bats are a protected species.