Sunday, August 14, 2011

As if flying weren't miserable enough...

The CDC is urging the 50 passengers on this recent Delta flight to contact them regarding potential rabies risk from a bat flying around the plane (the flight left Madison, WI, and returned there shortly after takeoff, after the bat made several forays through the cabin and was finally trapped in the airplane bathroom).

I have only two comments. First, the rabies risk, at least from the video footage, seems close to zero. The bat didn’t interrupt its flight long enough to scratch or bite anyone. Second, that’s a pretty big bat! If the plane was domestic only, it seems most likely to have been a “big brown”. Of the 45 documented human rabies cases in the U.S. since 1995, only one was traced to a big brown bat (most are associated with silver-haired or eastern pipistrelle bats). Given the size, it’s pretty disappointing that it couldn’t be captured for testing (it was trapped in a tiny airplane lavatory!). Detaining the bat for further analysis would have simplified the contact counseling greatly.

I’m sure all affected passengers will be offered free drinks on their next Delta flight (provided they aren’t hydrophobic).

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