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Bat on Delta flight causes rabies scare | News

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Bat on Delta flight causes rabies scare

ATLANTA -- A new report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides details of an incident in August 2011 when a bat flew several times through the cabin of a Delta Air Lines flight from Wisconsin to Atlanta.

The CDC says that while no one on the plane was exposed to rabies -- or, at least, the passengers they were able to contact -- they could have been, and that health officials should be prepared to deal with the exposure of infectious diseases on planes.

"Although a bat, or any wildlife, aboard a commercial airliner is unlikely, public health practitioners should be prepared to respond to potential exposures to rabies and other infectious agents, including during air travel," CDC researchers wrote in the report released Thursday.

The bat on the Delta flight eventually flew into the airplane lavatory, and was trapped when a passenger closed the door, according to the report. The bat escaped, however, before maintenance crews could capture it for rabies testing. The bat flew out the cabin door, through the airport terminal and was last seen escaping the building through the automatic doors, the CDC said.

The CDC report noted that due to the inability to obtain a complete passenger list, officials could not contact everyone aboard the flight about the incident. The CDC said it was able to contact 45 of the 50 passengers, the two pilots and flight attendant. Five passengers remain unidentified.

The agency recommended better record-keeping procedures, along with several measures to minimize the potential for rabies exposure.

According to the CDC's website, the most common way for people in the U.S. to get rabies is through contact with a bat. And while most bats don't have rabies, "a bat seen active during daylight hours or in an area where bats are not normally found, such as an aircraft cabin, should be tested for rabies as a public health precaution," the site said.