Rabid bat warning in South Jersey

May 21, 2008 3:19:00 PM PDT
A neighborhood in Mt. Holly has turned into a rabies hot spot. Two bats found in one of these houses have tested positive, putting one of the residents through another round of rabies shots, her second in two years.

"It really scared me, so I just beat it with the tennis racket," said Connie Garron.

On Mother's Day eight bats started flying out of a wood stove in Garron's living room. They had hibernated in the chimney. She managed to capture four of them.

"After the third one, I called for help. I was really shaken, really sick about it," she said.

The test results have sent a shiver of fear throughout the neighborhood.

Two of the bats were positive for rabies.

Garron is now getting booster shots. Last year she and ten other members of her family were treated for rabies after another incident with bats.

There have been other rabid animals in this area.

"A stray cat had scratched a dog. They were walking up in a back alley. The dog contracted rabies from the cat," said Michele Egley.

Bats are especially worrisome. Over the past nine years they've had over 300 cases of rabies in raccoons in Burlington County and just five in bats.

But bats have bitten 90 percent of the people who've come down with rabies nationwide.

The health department delivered warning notices to households in the area today. They say it's extremely important to get early treatment.

"Once symptoms start, invariably the result is death," explained William Weisgarber of the Department of health.

Pet owners and parents of small children are especially alarmed.

"I think it's crazy. I know we have a lot of animals over here, but to have rabies that close to our area. It's scary," said Leighla Murphy.

The health department is warning anyone with bats in the house to get checked out because bat bites are so small you may not even notice that you've been bitten in your sleep.