Bat on the Loose at NBA Game May Have Exposed Fans to Rabies

A bat flew through the arena during an Indiana Pacers vs. Los Angeles Clippers game on Feb. 7, 2019.
A bat flew through the arena during an Indiana Pacers vs. Los Angeles Clippers game on Feb. 7, 2019. Above, the bat can be seen in the upper-right corner. (Image credit: Brian Spurlock/USA TODAY Sports/Newscom)

An NBA game got a little batty last week when a confused-looking bat flew into the arena, interrupting play between the Indiana Pacers and the Los Angeles Clippers. Now, health officials say some people who attended the game may have been exposed to rabies.

On Thursday (Feb. 7), a bat swooped into the Bankers Life Fieldhouse arena in Indianapolis and darted around the court and fans' seats. Videos of the game show officials and fans swatting at the bat with towels or even their hands to get the flying mammal to leave.

Over the weekend, the Indiana State Department of Health (ISDH) issued a statement saying that anyone who had direct contact with the bat — meaning they touched the bat with their bare skin — may have been exposed to rabies, and these individuals should get in touch with the ISDH or their health care provider about receiving rabies vaccinations

So far, there have been no reports of anyone touching the bat with their bare skin, the statement said.

Rabies is a viral disease that affects the central nervous system. It's usually spread through the bite of an infected animal.

The disease is very rare in the United States, with only about one or two human cases of rabies reported each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). But most human cases in the U.S. are associated with exposure to bats, the CDC says.

Any bat that is active during the day or found in a place where it isn't supposed to be — like inside a home, or in this case, a basketball arena — might be rabid, the CDC says. Still, only a small percentage of bats in the U.S. have rabies, the agency notes.

Originally published on Live Science.

Rachael Rettner

Rachael is a Live Science contributor, and was a former channel editor and senior writer for Live Science between 2010 and 2022. She has a master's degree in journalism from New York University's Science, Health and Environmental Reporting Program. She also holds a B.S. in molecular biology and an M.S. in biology from the University of California, San Diego. Her work has appeared in Scienceline, The Washington Post and Scientific American.