Four dead bats have been found in the last three days at Midvale Middle School, two of which have since been declared rabid by the state's animal control laboratory.
The first three bats were discovered by a custodian prior to the start of the school day Monday, said Jordan School District spokeswoman Melinda Rock. They were found clustered together near the school's choir room; two were dead, and one was "still fluttering."After killing the third bat, the custodian alerted Salt Lake County Animal Services. Wednesday, school officials were notified that two of the three bats had tested positive for rabies.
A fourth bat was recovered at the school Wednesday, where it apparently died after flying into a wall, said Animal Services spokeswoman Temma Martin. Test results on that bat have not yet returned from the lab.
Exterminators were called in Wednesday afternoon, Rock said, and would also be on hand Thursday and Friday as a precaution. Principal Norma Villar Baker said this week's incidents are not expected to require school closure or widespread student rabies vaccinations.
"There have been no calls for student vaccination," Baker said, "and we've only had maybe four or five calls from parents concerned about the bats."
"We are following proper procedure," Rock said. "We've contacted the county health department, and will have exterminators on hand just to make sure nothing else happens. . . . But we feel confident that the extermination procedure taking place today (Wednesday) will take care of the problem tomorrow."
Even so, Rock said schoolchildren will be advised of the situation and told never to touch a bat - dead or alive. If they do come into contact with a bat, children are to notify an adult immediately.
Rabid bats are dangerous whether they are dead or alive, Martin said.
"If there's a message to be learned here, especially for kids, it's not to handle these animals. Don't try to chase them, and don't catch them. I don't think people realize how deadly this disease is. Once the disease begins to show symptoms, it's 100 percent fatal. Kids need to take that very seriously."
Martin advises children to report any contact with bats, no matter how minute. Rabies is spread through saliva, mucus membranes (including those in the eyes and nose), and brain tissue. If a bat's body material comes into contact with open wounds, or causes the slightest scratch, Martin said the child is at risk.
Children should not attempt to dispose of bats either, Martin said, but should call an informed adult. Adults should always wear gloves when handling dead bats, and scoop them into a sealed container.
Roof renovations may have some role in the number of bats found this week at the middle school, Rock said. But Martin said it may also be representative of a growing problem throughout the state.
"This is definitely turning into a big year for bats," Martin said. One veterinarian at the state laboratory recently reported 19 positive rabies cases in Utah this year, up from six last year, Martin said. At least eight of those were recovered in Salt Lake County.