Parents of nearly 350 elementary school students got quite a shock when they learned that a rabid bat had been found at Grammar No. 2 just days before classes were scheduled to start for the fall semester.
Fortunately, the infected creature was removed and the appropriate state agencies were called in to ensure the safety of students and teachers. This involved sealing points of entry and putting up netting to limit the movement of bats. The long-term solution will be to replace the building’s beautiful tile roof.
Youngsters missed a week of school that they will not be required to make up. District officials were prepared to send them to other schools if the health threat was not resolved quickly.
We commend them for handling the situation in a cautious yet open manner. Parents also appeared to be pleased with the response.
Grammar No. 2 is an old building, and its problem with bats has been known for years. According to a history posted on the school’s website, Grammar No. 2 opened in 1930, halfway through the school year. The two-story brick building cost $92,585 and consisted of 12 classrooms, a principal’s office, nurse’s office and basement.
In 1954, additional classrooms, a library and gym were built. In 1979, the roof structure was strengthened. In the summer of 1995, the 1929 boiler was replaced and roofs on the wings were recovered.
Over the years it has fared better than its predecessor, Grammar No. 1. That two-story brick building opened in 1877 at Eighth and Court streets and was the first home of the University of Nevada. It burned down on Christmas Day, 1918, after its floors were freshly oiled. It was rebuilt a year later and named after educator Kate St. Claire in 1973. That building was the original home of Nevada’s first community college before it was razed and replaced with Green Acre Apartments.
Old buildings come with their disadvantages, and the tile roof at Grammar No. 2 is blamed for allowing bats into the building. The nocturnal creatures like to nest in the roof around the school’s gym.
Like any other animal with rabies, an infected bat does not behave normally. This one was flapping around in the ceiling tiles and caught the attention of a teacher who alerted maintenance staff.
Rabies cases are uncommon and infected animals are usually easy to identify and avoid. Exactly how the virus manifests is less clear. The World Health Organization explains that “Rabies is spread when an infected animal scratches or bites another animal or human.” But how does a bat or other animal get infected with this potentially deadly disease in the first place? We couldn’t find an answer. Oddly, on the same week that the rabid bat was found in Elko another rabid bat was discovered in Boise after it was brought home by a family’s cat.
Late spring through early autumn is when the disease shows up the most, according to the Nevada Department of Agriculture’s Animal Disease Laboratory.
“Avoid direct contact with any bat,” said Dr. JJ Goicoechea, state veterinarian. “Don’t touch them without gloves or allow exposure to children or domestic animals.”
That advice should be easy to follow, considering these creepy creatures are not something a child would generally want to pick up and cuddle.
The rabid bat incident of 2017 is a lesson for schoolchildren and everyone else in the community. If you see a bat or other animal acting strangely, stay away and call the Nevada Department of Wildlife at 777-2300 or your local animal control officials.