Possible rabid bat infestation closes NC museum

Possible rabid bat infestation closes NC museum

EDGECOMBE COUNTY, NC (Mark Price/The Charlotte Observer) - The Veterans' Military Museum in Edgecombe County is closed until further notice because of concerns about possibly rabid bats living in the building among the exhibits.

The Edgecombe County Health Department has also taken the extra step of urging recent visitors to the site to call authorities if they came into contact with a bat in the building. The museum is three and a half hours northeast of Charlotte, in the town of Tarboro.

"Recently, there have been bats found inside the Tarboro Veterans Museum," according to a statement from county health director Karen Lachapelle. "Wildlife agents and local animal control staff are investigating this matter further...Not all bats carry rabies, but they are considered a high-risk species for rabies transmission."

The Edgecombe County Veterans Military Museum posted a notice saying it was closed until further notice for "maintenance issues." No mention of bats. "We appreciate your support and patience while we address several issues within our building," said the notice.

Rabies is a viral disease of mammals and is most often transmitted when the rabid animal's infectious saliva comes in contact with another mammal's mucous membranes or fresh open wound, health department officials said. The rabies virus infects the central nervous system, ultimately causing disease in the brain and death.

"Bat exposures are sometimes difficult to recognize because bats have tiny, sharp teeth that inflict limited injury, so a bite may not be evident," said Lachapelle. "A bat bite is considered possible when a person was in a space where one or more bats were present and was either asleep, unconscious or otherwise incapacitated without being able to describe precise circumstances. Since bats can transmit rabies through superficial contact or an unnoticed encounter, any potential exposure to a bat requires a thorough evaluation and risk assessment."

The purpose of the museum "is to inform and educate, and to honor and commemorate all past, present and future military veterans" from Edgecombe County, VisitNC.com says. The site also displays and preserves artifacts and other evidence of military service by residents of the community.