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3 bats removed from Fort Pierce movie theater, prompting rabies advisory

By Cassandra Garcia

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    FORT PIERCE, Florida (WPTV) — A bat encounter at a movie theater in Fort Pierce has the Florida Department of Health advising the community of the possibility of rabies in the area.

Amber Jackson, the general manager at Touchstar Cinemas in the Sabal Palm Plaza said in mid-January a moviegoer reported seeing something flying around the theater.

“We weren’t sure what it was, so we did call in a company to come and take a look [to] tell us if it was a bird or a bat whatever was flying in our theater,” Jackson said. “They came out and said it wasn’t a bat. It was probably a bird.”

She said a few days later they received a second report of something flying around.

“We went in, sat, after seven o’clock, I believe it was on the 19th,” Jackson said. “Our staff did see three flying bats.”

She said staff members then turned on the lights in the theater and tried to guide them out the emergency doors with a broom.

“We do have a double emergency door, and they were able to get them out the double door,” Jackson explained. “One of the bats did get stunned in the process, so one of the staff members did remove it and put it outside.”

The manager did not comment on the health status of the employees who encountered the bats.

The Florida Department of Health said the investigation into what happened is ongoing. They did confirm that at least one bat was in the theater. They believe the bat could have entered through a small unnoticeable hole in the roof. They also have not received any reports that someone was bitten.

HCA Florida Lawnwood Hospital emergency room Dr. Shelby Baron recommends that the public take the rabies advisory seriously.

“It’s deadly, but the symptoms take long to develop, so the incubation is really long,” Baron said. “That’s why it’s really important to take care of it before you develop any symptoms.”

Health officials said no animals have tested positive for rabies, but they urge anyone who feels they have been in contact with an animal that has rabies to seek immediate medical attention.

“If you’ve been exposed or bitten, the first thing to do is wash the wound and then seek medical attention,” Baron said. “There’s a rabies vaccination.”

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