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Health department receives cell photos of youths, rabid bat

Search ongoing for boys who handled sick animal

July 2, 2009
By DREW WINCHESTER, dwinchester@breezenewspapers.com

The Lee County Health Department has identified a young girl who was seen playing with a rabid bat June 15 at the Fort Myers Beach pier.

The LCHD received cell phone photographs taken by Iowa tourists who caught the girl, along with a young boy, admiring the bat. The photos do not show the girl touching the creature, but the boy is shown holding it.

The boy in the photos remained unidentified as of Wednesday evening.

LCHD spokeswoman Jennifer James-Mesloh said the girl's parents have decided not to move forward with rabies vaccinations or testing.

"According to her parents, she had not handled the bat," she said.

A search continues for three boys who reportedly handled the same bat, as the girl in the photos has not offered any new information.

It seems as though the LCHD's efforts have only grown more complicated with the discovery of the photos.

The health agency is sticking by the story that the three boys being sought are still unaccounted for.

"One of the problems we've had was that we've gotten differing information. Not all the facts are the same," James-Mesloh said. "It's been difficult to get the absolute number of kids that we're playing with the bat. Trying to piece together the story has been hard."

She credits the worldwide expansion of the media blitz last week for uncovering the new photos.

James-Mesloh said the Iowa tourists wish to remain anonymous and sent the information via their local health department.

Receiving the photos early Wednesday morning, LCHD was able to locate the girl in a few hours.

"What this tells us is this message has gone around the country. If someone from Iowa who was on vacation became aware (anybody can)," she said. "If anybody, regardless of where they live, saw something, please contact the health department."

Anyone with any information is urged to contact the LCHD. The hotline is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, at 332-9501.

 
 
 

 

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