SALT LAKE CITY — Students at two Wasatch Front high schools have been referred for medical attention after exposure to bats.
Following a bat-related incident last week at West High School, as well as a similar event earlier in the week at Layton High, dozens of Utah students were told to seek medical advice to make sure they received proper treatment against rabies.
Salt Lake City School District officials reported Thursday that 53 West High students may have been exposed to rabies from the bats.
District spokeswoman Yándary Chatwin said school officials made an extensive effort to identify anyone they believe could have been in the vicinity of the bats, though they had not found any rabies cases at the time.
"We've taken the steps to make sure the students are safe, and we're being overly cautious," Chatwin said.
Parents of the exposed students were notified and informed of the procedure for treating the rabies, she said.
Those exposed to bats or other rabies-carrying creatures were recommended for post-exposure prophylaxis treatment — a series of five shots, including one immune globulin and four doses of rabies vaccine, administered in a 14-day period after an exposure.
Chatwin said Salt Lake County Health Department officials will be bringing the vaccine to West High to make the shots convenient for the students.
Nicholas Rupp, of the Salt Lake County Health Department, said health officials will be at the schools for continued education services and to arrange transportation to University Hospital for students who were exposed.
Rupp noted that while bat sightings are common for this time of year and there are almost always cases at West High School, the large number of students exposed and the number of bats in this incident was above normal.
Davis School District spokesman Christopher Williams said only one Layton High student was identified as a definite case of exposure, and a second student was identified as a likely case of exposure.
District officials are still trying to verify whether another five students may have come into contact with bats, Williams said.
"Our bottom line message is: If you are a student or know a student who has touched a bat, you've got to make a phone call to the health department," he said. "It is not a situation in which you could monkey around."
Once clinical symptoms of rabies appear, cases are nearly always fatal.
Williams said none of the cases of exposure to bats came as a result of the bats initiating contact with the students, but rather with the students picking up or touching bats they found.
Students were notified beforehand not to touch the bats, he said.
Williams said there have been cases of bat appearances in the Davis School District in the past, but the recent case is considered above average.
About 1,200 bats were removed from the school over a three-day period, he said, and it could take at least another two weeks to confirm that Layton High has been completely cleared and cleaned of its bat problem. Until then, the school's auditorium will remain closed.
Anyone who believes they may have been exposed is asked to call the Salt Lake Health Department at 385-468-4222 or the Davis County can call the Davis Health Department at 801-525-5200.