Dryden, N.Y. – One of the children seen playing with a rabid bat in Dryden last week was a girl around seven or eight years old, a witness has told health officials.

The Tompkins County Health Department is still scrambling to find the three children who were reported to be using sticks to poke a rabid bat in Dryden’s Montgomery Park last Monday.

It’s been a week since the incident was first reported, and nobody has come forward since to say that the kids were bitten or infected.

But that’s no indication that the children are safe, said Adriel Shea, senior public health sanitarian for Tompkins County’s health department.

In most rabies cases, Shea said, patients take at least 31 days after exposure to begin showing symptoms.

“We’re talking 1 month to 3 months, so it can be quite some time,” Shea said.

That means there is still a critical need to find the three children, Shea said. They could be infected with a disease that simply hasn’t shown its symptoms yet. Once patients come down with symptoms, the disease is fatal.

Late Thursday, officials again spoke with the witness who reported the bat at around 2 p.m. in the afternoon. The witness was able to provide the new information about the girl’s age and also that the other two children appeared to be “somewhat younger,” according to Shea.

Other than that, however, very little new information has emerged about the children.

Part of the problem could be that the incident occurred in a public park. It’s not clear if the children live in Dryden or were passing through from somewhere else, Shea said.

Shea said officials have plastered posters all over the park and in the Dryden library and post office.

“The village clerk says that everybody in town is talking about it,” Shea said.

As of Monday, Tompkins County health officials were awaiting word from the New York Bureau of Epidemiology before deciding the correct next step.

Jeff Stein

Jeff Stein is the founder and former editor of the Ithaca Voice.