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Girl in ‘bat photos’ indentified; parents say she did not touch rabid animal

By Staff | Jul 1, 2009

The Lee County Health Department has identified a young girl seen playing with the rabid bat at the Fort Myers Beach pier.
LCHD received cell phone photos taken by Iowa tourists who caught the girl, along with a young boy, admiring the bat.
The photos do not reveal the girl physically touching the creature. But the boy, still unidentified, was holding the bat.
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,” James-Mesloh added.
Still, the search for three boys continues, as the girl has not been able to offer any new information.
It seems as though the LCHD’s efforts have only grown more complicated with the discovery of these photos.
The health agency, at this point, still believes there are three boys who played with the bat and who still are 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.”
James-Mesloh credits the worldwide expansion of their media blitz last week for uncovering these new photos.
She said the tourists who took the photos wished to remain anonymous, and sent the information via their local health department.
Receiving the photographs 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),” James-Mesloh said. “If anybody, regardless of where they live, saw something, please contact the health department.”
Anyone with any further information is urged to contact the LCHD. Their hotline is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, at 332-9501.