SANTA ANA (  – Authorities said that a bat found in a parking lot outside an Irvine shopping center on Tuesday has tested positive for rabies.

The bat was bat found  behind Zion Market in the Northwood Town Center at 4800 Irvine Boulevard.

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Health officials said the rabies virus is found in an animal’s saliva and is transmitted to people by a bite from a rabid animal.

Although rare, contamination of the eyes, mouth or an open wound by the saliva of a rabid animal can also transmit the rabies virus. Most cases of human rabies in the U.S. have resulted from bats. Officials also said bats have very small teeth, and their bites sometimes go unnoticed.

Once a person begins showing symptoms of having rabies, the disease is nearly always fatal. For that reason, preventive treatment is given to anyone who may have been exposed to the virus. Medical assistance should be sought ASAP.

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The Orange County Health Agency and OC Animal Care recommend the following preventive measures:

Avoid all contact with wild animals.
Vaccinate all cats and dogs against rabies.
Do not sleep with open un-screened windows or doors.
If bats are seen inside the house or other structure, close off the area and contact OC Animal Care. Once the bat(s) have been removed, close off any areas allowing entrance into the house.
Do not leave pet food outside where it will attract wild animals.
Immediately wash all animal bites with soap and water, being sure to flush the wound well, then contact your doctor.
Report all animal bites and stray animals to OC Animal Care.

Anyone who may have had physical contact with the bat in Irvine — or saw anyone interact with it — is asked to  Orange County Health Care Agency (HCA) Epidemiology at (714) 834-8180 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. or (714) 834-7792 after hours.

Potential exposure to a bat or other wild animal should be reported to HCA Epidemiology at (714) 834-8180. To report a bat in your home, an animal bite, or a stray animal, contact OC Animal Care at (714) 935-6848.

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More information about rabies is available on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.