Mother of child bitten by bat issues warning on treatment
By SUSAN OPPAT
NEWS STAFF REPORTER
AUG 30 1989
The mother of a 22-month-old child bitten last week by a rabid bat wants to warn other parents: if your child is bitten by a high-risk animal, don’t wait -treatment should begin within 24 hours.
Crystal Keller, of Northfield Township, also clarified this week how her son was bitten Aug. 21 in the family yard.
“The bite was unprovoked. My son saw him lying in the grass in broad daylight and reached his hand out. He didn’t poke at it,” Keller said. Washtenaw sheriff’s reports indicated the child poked at the bat and possibly provoked the bite.
Andrew Keller was bitten on the forearm. The bat’s body was only two inches long, she said, and the bite looked like nothing more than a scratch.
“If I hadn’t been right there and seen it,” Keller said, “I might have just wiped it off.”
But Keller saw the bat, “obviously sick,” lying in the yard in broad daylight and decided to capture it for testing
She also took her son to an emergency care clinic for a tetanus shot - and was told erroneously she could wait to start shots for rabies when results of lab tests on the bat came back.
“We would have waited,” she said. But the next morning she talked with her personal doctor - and he learned the shots must start within 24 hours. The deciding factor in administering the shots to Andrew was the fact that the bat was out in the daylight and appeared ill when it bit him.
With the incorrect information from emergency care workers, Crystal Keller said, “It could have been that we would have not started until Friday,” when the tests on the bat were returned. “And that would have been serious,” Keller said.
As it is, Andrew is fine, she said, because injections began within 18 hours.
“But I would hate to have some parent wait and not take it seriously” if their child is bitten by one of the high-risk animals - raccoons, bats, skunks or foxes.
She also suggested that anyone who captures an animal that has bitten someone to keep the animal until it can be turned over to county animal control officers for testing.
Bill Brauker, a spokesman for St. Joseph Mercy Hospital, said that a doctor on the hospital staff confirmed that treatment for a bite by a possibly rabid animal should ideally begin within 24 hours.
The standard treatment is two shots initially, followed by another seven days after exposure and another 21-28 days after exposure, Brauker said.
He added that a newer serum derived from human cells has replaced an earlier horse serum used for rabies treatment. He said the new treatment is not nearly as painful as the older serum, which had to be administered to the groin.
Washtenaw sheriff’s animal control officer Dale Hegwood said bats hibernate in the winter and are most active in the spring and summer. It is not unusual to see them about - or even discover them trapped in the house - on summer evenings.
But seeing them out in the daytime - as in the Keller case - should be cause for suspicion.