In what could be seen as irony, Thursday, September 28 was World Rabies Day and also the day one Utah high school was invaded by thousands of bats, potentially carrying the deadly disease. However, the another high school had already been inundated with 300 bats on Monday, leading to a temporary closure of the West High School in Salt Lake County on Wednesday while the bats were removed from the premises.

Some of the animals had been caught while sleeping in class, while other bats were captured using butterfly nets in “mid-flight.” 41 people had to undergo precautionary rabies vaccinations.

Second school invaded by bats

On World Rabies Day on Thursday, at least 1,500 bats were seen at the Layton High School in Davis County, while a further 1,200 had been removed from the school’s auditorium earlier in the week.

Nicholas Rupp, a spokesman for the Salt Lake County Health Department, told the Salt Lake Tribune there is an unusually high number of bats around this year. It turns out West High School is situated within a migratory path used by bats. However, with Layton High School, officials had been aware of a regular presence of bats in the attic of the building for some time but had no idea their numbers were so large.

Bat migration interrupted by weather

Dave Spence of the Davis County Health Department said that the occurrence of two bat infestations at once was due to “bad luck and timing.” He said Utah bats normally start to migrate south at this time of year, but changes in the weather had driven them indoors.

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Bats can potentially carry rabies, leading to concerns over students and staff at the schools. Once a person has been infected with the disease and it enters their brain, there is currently no effective method to treat the virus. This led to 41 people receiving treatment for potential exposure to rabies at West High School, plus two people were recommended by the Davis County health department to start prophylactic treatment for the virus.

Officials are recommending that anyone else who has potentially been exposed to the rabies virus should receive a vaccination as quickly as possible.

Spence went on to say it was ironic the health department found out about the bat infestations when they did on World Rabies Day. The health department had sent out a tweet about the event earlier that day.

According to Spence, with so many bats involved and the difficulty of testing each for rabies, they are working under the assumption that at least one animal is infected, leading them to proceed with caution.

However, according to a report by Newsweek, eight bats tested from the thousands of bats caught came up with negative results.

No doubt to the disappointment of students, both schools remained open once the bats had been removed.