Dryden, N.Y. — Using sticks, three children poked a bat they found Monday in the town of Dryden’s Montgomery Park.

The bat was later captured and tested positive for rabies.

The problem?

No one knows who the children are, according to Clayton Maybee, public health sanitarian for the Tompkins County Health Department.

“On Monday, someone called health department and said they heard squeaking and saw three children poking a downed bat,” Maybee said. “Rabies is transmitted through bite, so stick contact isn’t enough to transmit the disease. Our concern is that one of the kids was bitten.”

The health department’s primary mission is to find the children, Maybee said.

“We’ve posted signs in the park where it happened, in the Dryden post office, in the library, in the hopes that in hopes that some child did report to their parents that they got bitten by a bat,” Maybee said. “Our belief is that no one had actually touched the bat, but we want to make sure that we have all of our bases covered.”

If a child was bitten by the bat, the key is to find him or her before symptoms appear.  As an intense virus that attacks the central nervous system, rabies strikes hard and fast, according to Maybee.

“Once you come down with symptoms, it’s fatal,” Maybee said. “You’ll have pains in different parts of the body, and it ultimately will paralyze muscles in the throat so you can’t swallow.”

The good news?  The rabies shot is incredibly effective.

“If it’s administered in a timely fashion, it is nearly 100 percent effective,” Maybee said.  “In the U.S., no one has died when the new vaccine was administered quickly.”

The rabid bat is one of a few rabid animals reported in Tompkins County this year.  Often, the health department will receive reports of animals that are acting odd, but most come back negative for rabies, Maybee said.

“In the winter, there was a raccoon with rabies at dairy farm,” Maybee said.  “There was a bat in a bedroom that was also positive.”

Unlike a larger creature such as a fox or raccoon, a bat bite often goes undetected, which means that informing the Dryden community about the incident is important, Maybee said.

The health department urges anyone who had contact with a bat in Montgomery Park in Dryden to immediately contact them at 607-274-6688.