BANNOCK COUNTY – Idaho public health officials confirmed the first rabid bat of the season in the state in Bannock County. A man, his dog, and numerous cats all were potentially exposed to the rabid bat. Public health officials are actively following up on exposures.
“Rabies is a fatal viral illness if not treated with proper medical management early after exposure. An Idaho man died last year after being exposed to a rabid bat,” said Dr. Leslie Tengelsen, state public health veterinarian. “People should call their healthcare providers promptly if they believe they may have been bitten or scratched by a bat to discuss the need for post-exposure shots, which are extremely effective in preventing rabies.”
“It is extremely important for people to avoid all bats and other wild animals, particularly if they appear sick or are acting aggressively or abnormally,” she added.
Tengelsen also strongly encourages owners to contact their veterinarian if they believe their pets, regardless of vaccination status, were in contact with a bat.
Bats are the only known natural reservoir of the rabies virus in Idaho and should always be avoided. While most bats do not carry rabies, an average of 15 rabid bats are detected in Idaho each year. No area of Idaho is considered rabies-free.
The most common ways people may encounter a bat is when a pet brings one into the home or a bat enters a home through a small opening or open windows and doors. People might also wake up to find a bat in their room and may not be sure whether they were bitten or scratched while they slept. If that happens, contact a healthcare provider.
Bats should be tested for rabies if there is any chance a person, pet, or livestock might have been in contact with it. There is no need to test a bat that has had no interaction with people, pets, or livestock.
To protect yourself and your pets, public health officials recommend these guidelines:
· Never touch a bat with your bare hands.
· If you have had contact with a bat or wake up to find a bat in your room, seek medical advice immediately. Healthcare providers may discuss the need for a life-saving series of shots.
· Call your local public health district about testing a bat for rabies. If it is determined that you or your pet may be at risk of rabies, the bat can be tested for free through the state public health laboratory.
· If you must handle a bat, always wear thick gloves.
· If the bat is alive, save it in a non-breakable container with small air holes. If the bat is dead, the bat should be double-bagged and sealed in clear plastic bags. In either case, contact the public health district right away about how to manage the bat and how to get it tested for rabies.
· Always vaccinate your dogs, cats, ferrets, and horses. Even indoor pets could be exposed to rabies if a bat gets into a home. Household pets and other animals can be exposed to the virus by playing with sick bats that can no longer fly normally.
· Teach your children to avoid bats and to let an adult know if they find one.