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Oakland, California, residents warned of rabies risk after bat bites girl

By Laila Kearney

(Reuters) - Public health officials in the northern California city of Oakland have warned residents to watch out for animals "roaming, staggering or otherwise acting in a strange manner" after a girl was bitten by a rabid bat at the city zoo.

The Mexican free-tailed bat wandered onto the ledge of an otter aquarium and bit the girl on Saturday when she tried to handle it, Oakland Zoo spokeswoman Nicky Mora said.

The girl, a teenage volunteer at the zoo, was recovering on Wednesday and being treated for rabies, Mora said.

She said the bat was wild and did not belong to the zoo. Veterinarians euthanized the bat, which tested positive for rabies, Mora said.

The bite victim, a minor, has since received post-exposure treatments for the disease and appears to be doing fine, she said.

Alameda County health officials sent a warning about rabid animals.

"There may be other rabid animals still undiscovered," the Alameda County Vector Control Services District said on flyers posted around the community. "Report any animals roaming, staggering or otherwise acting in a strange manner in the daytime," it said.

A person does not need to be bitten or scratched by a rabid animal to get the virus, said Daniel Wilson, a spokesman for the vector control district. He said rabies can be contracted when infected saliva touches skin abrasions or mucus membrane.

People exposed to the disease are treated with a vaccine.

Rabies is almost always fatal once symptoms begin to show.

Nationwide, there are one or two cases of human rabies infections reported each year, with the majority of cases being caused by bats, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. About 40,000 people in the country are exposed to the disease annually and are given post-exposure treatment.

(Reporting by Laila Kearney in San Francisco; Editing by Sharon Bernstein and Eric Beech)

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