Though there was a communications breakdown, Medical College of Georgia Hospital handled a recent bat bite case appropriately, an official said.
The father of a 9-year-old who was bitten said the family thought they were doing the right thing, too.
The boy saw a bat floating in the pool in the Summerville area and said he thought it was a leaf so “he went to throw it out of the pool,” said his father, Dr. Anthony Ramage.
The bat bit him, which is at least the second such incident in the past month after a similar case in Aiken.
Thinking they would need the bat for testing, Ramage said, he killed it and took it to the Emergency Department.
“MCG told us they didn’t test the bat,” he said.
Hospital staffers said that by the time the results got back, the boy would have finished the four-shot preventive vaccination anyway, Ramage said.
The bite didn’t get reported until the boy went for a follow-up at Dwight D. Eisenhower Army Medical Center, where his father is a critical-care physician.
Because it happened on the weekend, MCG did the correct thing, said Randy Wishard, the manager for environmental health for the Richmond County Health Department. If the testing can’t be done within 12 hours, and the state lab is closed over the weekend, the protocol is to start the shots, he said.
“They did everything right down the line,” Wishard said, but the hospital should have notified either environmental health or Animal Control for someone to pick up the carcass for testing. After-hours and on weekends, Animal Control has a bite person on call who can be reached through dispatch, he said. Even if it doesn’t make a difference in the boy’s case, environmental health likes to have confirmation that the animal was rabid so it can inform the public, he said.
For instance, a dog in the area of Boy Scout Road and Kipling Drive killed a rabid raccoon two weeks ago. Fortunately, the dog was current on its rabies vaccination, so it did not have to go through a quarantine, Wishard said.
“The worst -case scenario is the pet has to be euthanized,” he said.
Wishard is planning to send out a letter to hospitals and physicians’ offices this week reminding them of the protocol. The family should fill out a bite report that is faxed to environmental health, and either environmental health or Animal Control notified to pick up the body for testing, he said.
The family wanted the bat tested to help inform the public, Ramage said.
“If they don’t report it, then nobody knows this is happening, you can’t alert people to the possibility that there is an uptick in bat bites for whatever reason,” he said. “Not to mention if they test it, then they can keep a handle on the rate of rabies in the local bat population.”
In the end, the family got the right outcome for the child.
“He’s fine,” Ramage said.