Florida resident dies of rabies after being bitten by a bat, health official says

Shark bite. Gator bite. Now add bat bite to the Florida wildlife chomps that can kill.

A resident of Highlands County in Central Florida has died from a bat bite.

The Florida Department of Health said what killed the person, according to a report by Orlando TV station WKMG, wasn’t the bite but rather the rabies likely transmitted in the bite. And the person didn’t get medical care after being bitten.

The Department of Health website says, “Rabies virus can cause a nearly 100% fatal illness in humans and other mammals. The virus is present in some wildlife in Florida and can spread to unvaccinated pets, which then pose a high risk to the pet owner and their family.

“The main wildlife sources of rabies in Florida are raccoons and bats. Infected raccoons and bats can expose people, pets, livestock and other wildlife to rabies, typically through bites.”

According to Florida’s Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission, there are 13 species of bats native to Florida and another seven that occasionally appear.

“For bats, one of the most important parts of their habitat is a place to roost,’’ the FWC says. “In Florida, natural roosting sites can be caves, in cracks, crevices or hollows of trees, under dead fronds of palm trees, and in Spanish moss. Bats also use man-made structures including buildings, bridges, culverts, tile roofs and bat houses.”

The FWC website notes that bats do most of their mating in the autumn and winter.

David J. Neal: 305-376-3559, @DavidJNeal