SAINT LOUIS PARK, Minn. - You may have seen the tweets about Sven Sundgaard's precarious encounter with a bat. Well, it turns out his battle is helping some people learn a thing or two about rabies.
If he knew then what he knows now, Sven may have avoided rabies shots. In his fourth visit to Park Nicollet's Urgent Care Clinic in Saint Louis Park, Sven got his final dose of rabies vaccine Tuesday afternoon.
His ordeal began when he was sleeping in a cabin in mid-August and something brushed his face, a bat, which he shooed out the door. As he let the bat go, "I thought, 'Well, I don't think I was bit. Well, go on your way.'
And what I should have done was send it in to be tested."
Jodie Leko of Saint Paul had a similar experience. She shooed a bat from her cabin bedroom that same weekend and explained, "When I didn't see any marks, I didn't think there was anything I needed to do any further."
Sven's social media posts made her realize she needed the vaccine too, and she is grateful.
She said, "Thanks Sven." The fact is bats have tiny teeth and you may not know if you were bit. Dr. Stacy Holzbauer, veterinary epidemiologist with the Minnesota Department of Health, said, "If you wake up to find a bat in your bedroom, you should capture the bat and have it tested for rabies."
It's best to catch the bat alive, in a hard container. But a dead bat can also be tested.
The Minnesota Department of Health has info on rabies and how to get a bat tested.
Holzbauer said if you don't submit the bat for testing you will need the rabies vaccine too.
Sven had four doses of human rabies immune globulin (HRIG) and one dose of rabies vaccine on his first urgent care visit. Then he had one dose of rabies vaccine on each of the next three visits.
The number of doses of HRIG someone needs is determined by weight, so it could be more or fewer for someone else. Plus, HRIG isn't necessarily stocked at all regular medical clinics and may be more easily found at emergency departments and urgent care clinics.
As for bats, a small percentage of them actually carry rabies. Holzbauer said, "
On average about three percent of the bats we receive test positive for rabies."
Still, Carroll Henderson, non-game wildlife program supervisor with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources said bats are on the move this time of year.
Henderson said, "A lot of the bats are moving to places where they might be wintering like larger caves."
So, as they look for places to camp out on their journey, you may encounter a bat. Don't shoo it, catch it and get it tested.
And if it tests negative for rabies, you'll save yourself the trouble that Sven went through.
Sven said, "I'm relieved to be done with it."
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