41 People Get Rabies Shots After Bats Invade High Schools

September 30, 2017 Updated: October 2, 2017

Forty-one people are being treated for rabies after bats invaded two high schools in Salt Lake County, Utah.

The local health department received reports of people at the schools holding bats, kicking them, or even placing them on their shoulders. Bat sightings are not uncommon, but this year the sightings grew, creating a rabies scare, Fox 13 reported.

“As soon as we walked in we could flip on the lights and a few bats started flying around.” said wildlife conservation biologists Adam Bremerton via Fox 13. He saw the bats flying around in the Layton High School auditorium. He suspects they got there after flying through vents from the school’s attic.

The schools had been trying to remove the pests themselves. They found the bats sleeping in classroom corners and even caught some mid-flight.

“When we first heard about this there were a few bats. That grew each day. When you talk about a colony that’s this big, it’s a concern,” said Dave Spence, the deputy director of the Davis County Health Department.

Bremerton urged people not to disturb the bats.

“If you don’t know what you’re doing, leave it alone. Don’t touch them.”

What makes the current situation unique is that even though the schools are along a bat migration route, not many bats had been seen until now. The schools had done a good enough job sealing the place eight or nine years ago that only one or two were spotted during the high season, reported The Salt Lake Tribune.

The health department said the disease is usually fatal once a person starts to show signs of having rabies. They are encouraging those who may have come into contact with the bats to receive treatment. The treatment consists of 5 shots over 14 days. They said the shots are not very painful.

Rabies attacks the central nervous system and causes brain damage. Bats carrying rabies may not look or act much different from bats free of the disease. So far, around 300 bats were rounded up from West High School.

“To see the bats come back in such large numbers was a bit surprising this week,” said Salt Lake City School District spokesman Jason Olsen, via The Salt Lake Tribune. “That’s why we decided to shut the school, get everybody out of the school and do a thorough inspection.”