Last fall, I wrote about rabies exposure in a Montana school. The full story has just been published in CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Reports. The brief version of the story is:

  • Parent finds a dead bat carried in by the family cat and, for reasons known only to him/her, puts it in a jar.
  • The next day, the parent takes the bat to a school, takes it out of the jar, and presents it to 8 classrooms full of children. Many students, teachers and staff touch the bat.
  • The school nurse finds out later that day (I assume this finding is accompanied by a large spike in the nurse’s blood pressure), and advises the parent to submit the bat for rabies testing.
  • The bat tests positive and an investigation is started.
  • 107 students and staff are interviewed and all are identified as requiring rabies post-exposure treatment. One student reported that their finger may have been pricked while sticking it in the bat’s mouth, which would be a high risk exposure.
  • 74 people ended up being treated. There’s no word as to why some declined.

This was clearly a completely avoidable situation that resulted in potential widespread exposure to rabies, a large investigation, stress for people and their families, as well as the expense and pain of multiple injections for many individuals – all because one well-meaning but poorly-informed parent brought a dead wild animal to school, and because none of the teachers or staff that witnessed this thought to act.

The school’s insurance policy covered the $75 000 in vaccine costs (plus an additional $29 000 for vaccine that was ordered but not used by people who declined vaccination).

  • People need to be more informed about diseases such as rabies. This type of information is available on the Worms & Germs Resources page.
  • Schools need to develop and enforce policies regarding visitors and pets. Approximately 1/3 of large scale rabies exposures occur in schools.
  • Common sense needs to be a little more common.