Seabeck teenager learns a painful lesson: Don't touch a bat, no matter how 'fluffy'

SEABECK, Wash. – A 17-year-old has a warning for others about possibly rabid bats in Western Washington.

There are bats infesting Kitsap County that are carrying rabies -- something 17-year-old Ashton Miller of Seabeck learned firsthand.

“You’ll just be outside at night and they’ll just fly over your head,” Ashton said Friday.

This year has been a bad year across the Puget Sound for people being exposed to rabies through contact with bats. In just the past two weeks, there have been two reported incidents of rabid bats biting or scratching people in Kitsap County.

Known for its beautiful views and quaint small-town feel, Seabeck also has those little creatures lurking in the shadows. Or, in Ashton's case, just in a neighbor's yard.

“Their cat injured it (a bat) so it was in their yard and so I just picked it up in my hand.  It was like a cotton ball, really light, kind of fluffy,” Ashton said.

When he sent a picture of the bat to his mother…

“She called me and told me to get home right away and that we needed to get to urgent care."

Ashton’s mother says she watched one of Q13 News'  previous stories about rabid bats in the Puget Sound so she knew what to do.  In the last few months, people have come into contact with rabid bats in Olympia, Auburn, Woodinville, the University of Washington, and, most recently, two cases in Seabeck.

“We expect more and more people to see bats and come into contact with bats and we want them to protect themselves,” Dr. Jeff Duchin, a health officer with Seattle & King County Public Health, said in May.

Public Health says, "Rabies ... is almost always fatal once symptoms begin. Rabies is transmitted when an infected bat bites or scratches a person's skin. Bat bites may not be noticed because bat teeth are very tiny and razor sharp. Examining a person for evidence of a bat bite is unreliable, because a bat bite can be no bigger than a needle prick. Therefore, any direct contact with a bat should be considered a possible rabies exposure."

If you come into contact with a bat, immediately get treatment in the form of a series of shots over four separate visits.  One shot in each arm and two shots in each hip each treatment session.

“It’s a really thick liquid so you start to feel sore after the next day,” Ashton said of the shots he's receiving.

It’s enough for Ashton to send this warning to anyone else who might be curious enough to pick up a bat.

“Don’t do it.  Just avoid them.  Don’t touch them at all.  It’s not worth getting however many shots just to hold a bat."