A woman hiking in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park was bitten by a rabid bat, Park Service officials said today.
The 56-year-old woman, who is from Iowa, was hiking on the Old Sugarlands Nature Trail with a group of about a dozen when she was bitten on Wednesday. She is the only person known to have been bitten by any rabid animal in the 70-year history of the park.
According to a Park Ranger's report, the bat was flying around the woman's head, landed on her fanny pack and came into contact with her elbow, on which she received a small puncture wound.
Other members of the group caught and killed the bat and brought its carcass to Sugarlands Visitor Center.
The woman sought medical treatment and began receiving anti-rabies injections immediately, before rabies tests on the bat were completed at the Sevier County Health Department.
For several years, the park has conducted tests on bats that died or were acting strangely in high human use areas, "but this is only the third one to come back positive," said Park Wildlife Biologist Kim Delozier. "In the other two cases, there was no human contact with the infected animals."