Around dusk on Tuesday, April 3, a bat with a wingspan of about 5 inches landed on the forearm of a 59-year-old Menlo Park woman and bit her – a feeling like a pinprick, she said – as she was running along Stanford Avenue in West Menlo Park.
"I felt something on my left arm by my elbow, like something bit me, and I looked down and there was a big black bat stuck on me," said the runner, who declined to be identified for this story.
"I was trying to brush it off and I finally did, and it flew off." The bat persisted in harassing her, but "I beat it away and it left me alone," she said.
After she finished her training run for a half-marathon, her running coach and Jim Gothers, the co-owner of Fleet Feet Sports in Menlo Park, examined her and advised that she be seen by a doctor immediately.
They tried the Palo Alto Medical Foundation, but were referred to the emergency room at Stanford Hospital, she said.
Bats can be carriers of rabies, which could be fatal without medical treatment, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
Medics at Stanford treated the runner for rabies with a series of shallow injections around the bite, an injection in her right deltoid muscle and one injection in each thigh, the runner said.
"I feel perfectly fine," she told The Almanac the day after her treatment. "The nurses were great. The doctor was great. They were all great."
She has to return to the hospital for two more treatments, she said.
She said she bears no ill will toward bats, noting that she's seen them in her garage at home. "I like bats. They're necessary (in) the food chain," she said. "I don't want people to be afraid of them or kill them."
Rabies in animals used to occur mostly in domestic animals, but prevalence shifted to wild animals, mostly in carnivores and bats, after 1960, the CDC says. In 2015, bats accounted for 31 percent of reported cases of rabies, followed by raccoons, skunks and foxes.
More than 100 people a year died from rabies at the turn of the 19th century in the United States, the CDC says. Today, the rate is two or three per year, thanks to animal control and vaccinations that have eliminated domestic dogs as carriers, and to the development of effective vaccines and antibodies, the CDC says.