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Bat at Ravens game has health officials worried

Thursday - 8/23/2012, 11:54pm  ET

WASHINGTON - A baseball bat at a stadium during an Orioles game is nothing new.

But last Friday night, a different kind of bat the one with wings made contact with a fan during a Ravens game, worrying officials with the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene because of the potential for rabies exposure.

Katherine Feldman, chief veterinarian for the DHMH, says the bat touched down on a fan in the 500 seating section of M&T stadium Friday night during the Ravens game.

The bat flew off, so there is no definitive evidence that it was rabid. But Feldman says it's rare for a bat to come into contact with humans and its erratic flight may be evidence that it was sick.

Feldman says though there's no evidence the woman was bitten, contact with an animal which has rabies could put a person at risk for exposure.

"Typically, people will feel the bite, but bat's teeth are very small, like small needles," she says, adding that it is possible that someone could be bitten but not know it.

The concern isn't limited to the woman who ended up being the bat's landing.

"As we understand it, the person who the bat landed on had some assistance from another person," Feldman says. "We're concerned about that second person and whether [he or she] may have been exposed."

Feldman says anyone who had contact with the animal should contact their local health department and their doctor to see what's advised. She says not to worry about recommended vaccinations.

"It really isn't that bad anymore," she says. "It's no longer that series of injections into your stomach that we've all heard horror stories about."

Maryland hasn't had a case of rabies in humans since 1976 and the state wants to keep it that way, says Feldman. According to the health department, more than 200 animals have been diagnosed with rabies, including 40 bats.

WTOP's Kate Ryan contributed to this report. Follow Kate and WTOP on Twitter.

(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)