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first_img AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREWhicker: Clemson demonstrates that it’s tough to knock out the champIt could be a statistical variation, she said. Maybe more people know to call the county when they spot a bat, creating an increase in the number of rabid bats counted, Beler said. It’s possible more bats have rabies, too. Drought could also be the culprit, she said. “One guess given to us by a bat biologist is the drought makes all animals look farther for water and food,” Beler said. “And that may stress their immune system and makes them more likely to get sick with rabies.” But while the drought affects animals statewide, the rabid bat increase seems to be fairly localized. Statewide, 128 rabid bats have been found year-to-date, compared with 158 total last year, according to Ken August, a spokesman for the California Department of Public Health. Neighboring counties did not see a dramatic jump, and their officials were at a loss to explain why Los Angeles County alone saw the increase. A startling increase in the number of rabid bats found in Los Angeles County has public health officials stumped. More than three times as many rabid bats have been found in the county so far this year compared with 2006, when seven were found. Of the 24 found year-to-date, one each was found in Alhambra, Downey, La Verne and Pico Rivera. Two were found in Glendora, two in Glendale, and three each in Santa Clarita and Tarzana. It’s unclear what’s causing the increase, said Emily Beler, a zoonosis veterinarian with the county’s rabies control program. “To be honest, we really don’t know,” she said. “It certainly looks like an increase. Does it mean a trend? We’re not convinced yet.” Six rabid bats were found in Orange County this year, compared with three last year. “Technically double,” said Orange County Animal Care Services spokesman Ryan Drabek, but called it a small increase. In Riverside County, 13 percent of bats tested had rabies this year compared with 7 percent last year – but by the numbers, that’s six rabid bats this year compared with four last year. In Ventura County, the numbers dropped from nine bats to five. Bats transmit rabies by biting, but bites are rare and so small they might not even be felt, Beler said. In Los Angeles County, a few people are bitten every year, she said. One woman in the San Gabriel Valley was bitten in October while picking up leaves bare-handed. In one handful, she found a bat – and a small cut on her hand. The bat tested positive for rabies, and the woman got rabies shots, Beler said. “The important thing was that she paid attention,” Beler said. “She did not ignore it, and she had the bat tested.” Part of what makes rabies so dangerous is that by the time the symptoms show up, it’s too late to cure the fatal disease. “Never touch bats or other wildlife,” Beler advised. “If a bat is flying in daylight, or is on the ground, or is spending time in living spaces, that could be a sick bat because that’s not normal behavior for a bat and it could be rabies.” But despite the 24 rabid bats found, people shouldn’t be concerned, she said. Rabies makes bats weak, not aggressive. “They don’t fly around attacking,” she said. But they do pop up all around the county. Online, at www.lapublichealth.org/vet, under “Mapping Local Animal Disease,” two maps show where the bats were found. At least 16 have been found in the greater San Gabriel Valley since 2000, five of them this year. “The last time L.A. County had 24 positive bats was in 1982,” noted Norma Arceo, a spokeswoman for the California Department of Public Health. It’s a good opportunity to remind people how to stay safe, Beler said. “Keep your pets vaccinated,” she said. “Don’t touch bats. Talk to your doctor if you’re bitten.” alison.hewitt@sgvn.com (626) 962-8811, Ext. 2730160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!last_img