By Fred Woods

Bats in the belfry? No, but they were present last week in another, older part of Trinity United Methodist Church. A group of children from Cornerstone UMC in Auburn were a part of a Christian camping experience  involving seven or eight churches, some local and some from out of the area. The experience involved a sleep-over at the church.
One of the Cornerstone children heard something in the room. The lights revealed a bat flying around the room. The bat escaped through a small hole in the ceiling. The hole was plugged with paper. The kids were later awakened to find at least two bats in the room at which point the kids were removed to a hallway for the balance of the night.
Apparently, the Cornerstone group, 24 children and three adults were the only ones with the bat experience.
So what is the problem? Many older buildings have bats in their attics, do they not? Aren’t bats beneficial in eating insects including mosquitos and agricultural pests? Yes, but bats are also carriers of rabies and can infect humans with this deadly disease.
Since it is not normal for bats or any other wild animals to come in contact with humans, medical authorities tell us any contact with potential carriers of rabies must be treated as a possible exposure to rabies unless the animal can be tested and found rabies free.
None of the adults in the Trinity situation were immediately aware of the seriousness of the bat exposure but when Jack Fisher, Director of Operations at Cornerstone, heard about it, he immediately contacted Dr. Buddy Bruce, Lee County Rabies Control Officer. The two began compiling a contact list of the parents of the 24 children involved and the three adult chaperones and contacting them all, advising contacting family doctors or a hospital emergency room.
Typically physicians will advise post exposure prophylactic (PEP) treatment which involves an immediate dose of rabies immune globulin applied in a shot around the bite, or, if there is no bite, in the hip. This is followed by additional doses of vaccine on days three, seven and 14. Some doctors recommend an additional vaccination on day 28.
It is critical to get started with these treatments as soon as possible, in any case within 10 days of exposure.
Rev. Bill Kierce, senior pastor of Trinity UMC, expressed his concern for the children and their families and his church’s desire to help in any way possible. Kierce assured that Trinity had already taken steps to render church buildings bat-free.
For additional information about rabies, potential carriers, pet vaccinations or treatments contact Lee County Rabies Control Officer.