A woman is receiving medical care after handling a rabid bat near Como Lake in St. Paul this week, the Minnesota Department of Health said Friday.
The bat, found near the Como Lakeside Pavilion, tested positive for rabies, the agency said.
A concerned citizen contacted the state Health Department about a woman who had handled the animal. Signs were posted in the area telling people about the rabid bat, and the woman came forward after seeing the notices circulating on social media.
"If someone has been bitten or exposed to a bat, it is very important to test the bat for rabies," Dr. Joni Scheftel, state public health veterinarian, said in the news release. "If this is not possible, rabies prevention shots should be given as soon as possible."
The Health Department said the situation should serve as a reminder of the danger of the disease, which is transmitted through bites from infected animals.
"Bats are of particular concern because their teeth are so tiny that a bite may not be felt or even leave a noticeable mark," the agency's news release said. "If a person has any physical contact with a bat or finds a bat in the room of a sleeping person or unattended child, the bat should be captured safely and submitted for rabies testing. If the bat is not available for rabies testing, the person who came into contact with the animal should receive rabies prevention shots."
Last year, the state saw 19 rabies cases involving bats.
The little brown bat is Minnesota's most common bat species. Although often feared, bats play a vital role in the ecosystem. They feed primarily on insects, including mosquitoes, moths and beetles.
According to the state Department of Natural Resources, they catch the insects in their cupped tail membranes as they dart through the night sky, then transfer the prey to their mouths while in flight.