Manassas police and health department officials are looking for anyone who came into contact with an ailing bat that was found near an Old Town Manassas gift shop last Saturday afternoon and has since tested positive for rabies.
The City of Manassas Police Department and the Prince William Health District are spreading the word in an attempt to find the person or people who found the bat outside Calico Jack's, at 9115 Center St., at about 1:40 p.m. Saturday, July 6, and anyone else who might have handled it.
Unfortunately, the shop worker didn’t get the names of the people who handled the bat. The shop reported only that one was “a white woman in her 20s,” said Officer Sarah Maroney, spokeswoman for City of Manassas Police Department.
The woman was thought to be shopping in the area when she and others discovered the bat.
A Calico Jack's employee called the police, which retrieved the bat and had it tested for rabies. The tests came back positive, Maroney said Thursday.
Anyone else who handled the bat with their bare hands would be “highly at risk” for contracting the disease, Maroney said.
Dr. Alison Ansher, of the Prince William Health District, said initial reports indicated that "several people" were observed touching the bat after it was found Saturday afternoon.
It's not clear exactly what time the bat was handled near the shop. The police said the bat was reported at 1:40 p.m. The health district says 3 p.m. in its report.
The bat was found around Center Street between West Street and Battle Street, the health department report said.
Rabies is a deadly disease caused by a virus that attacks the nervous system. Rabies can be prevented with a vaccine but kills almost any mammal or human that gets sick from it, the health department said.
The rabies virus is mainly in the saliva and brain tissue of rabid animals. It can be transmitted through a bite or by getting saliva or brain tissue in a wound or in the eye or mouth.
Bat bites can be very small, and sometimes people don't notice if they have suffered a bite.
"Anybody who was exposed to a bat in that area needs to notify the health department," Ansher said.
Anyone who believes they might have come into contact with the bat is asked to contact the Prince William Health District immediately at 703-792-7329 and to contact Senior Animal Control Officer Mark Daigle at 703-257-8102.
Police are also reminding residents they should never handle bats or other wild animals.
City of Manassas residents are asked to call their police department's non-emergency line at 703-257-8000.
In Prince William County, the number for animal control, which is also the police non-emergency number, is 703-792-6500.
Correction: This report has been updated to note the bat was found outside Calico Jack’s, but it is not clear the animal was brought inside the store as was initially reported. This story will be updated as more information comes available.