Medical Reaction to Bats in Flight in an Airplane

Bats can present a medical hazard even while they are in flight — even flying at altitudes far higher than bats normally attain. The Centers for Disease Control explains how and why:

Rabies Risk Assessment of Exposures to a Bat on a Commercial Airliner — United States, August 2011,” Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR), April 13, 2012 / 61(14);242-244.  The story in gist:

“On August 5, 2011, a bat flew through the cabin of a commercial airliner minutes after takeoff during an early morning flight from Wisconsin to Georgia, potentially exposing the passengers and flight crew to rabies virus. Three days later, the Wisconsin Division of Public Health (WDPH) requested assistance from CDC to conduct a rabies risk assessment for the passengers, flight crew, and ground crew members associated with the flight. No one was determined to have been exposed to rabies virus based on Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices guidelines for rabies prevention. An environmental assessment of the Wisconsin airport found a rigorous animal control and incident documentation program and no evidence of bat infestation. Although none of the persons assessed required postexposure rabies prophylaxis in this incident, bats active in daylight or found in areas where they are not normally found (e.g., aboard an aircraft) can pose risks for rabies transmission, and public health officials should be prepared to respond to such occurrences.”

(Thanks to investigator Jenny Gutbezahl for bringing this to our attention.)

BONUS: CNN’s TV news report on the incident