Another bat from southwest Idaho has tested positive for rabies this week, bringing the total in Ada County to five and the statewide total to 13.
Public health officials are alerting everyone, but parents in particular, about the risks associated with handling bats. Children walking to school or waiting for a bus who find a bat should not touch it or take it to school.
“It is extremely important for everyone to avoid bats or other wild animals that appear to be sick or that are acting aggressively or abnormally,” says Dr. Leslie Tengelsen, Deputy State Epidemiologist. “If a child finds a bat, they should leave it alone and tell an adult. Anyone bitten or scratched by a bat should call their health care providers immediately. Medical therapy administered to people after an animal bite is extremely effective in preventing rabies.”
Bats play an important role in our environment. While most are harmless and do not carry rabies, they are the only animal in Idaho that is a natural carrier for the virus. Idaho averages about 15 rabid bat reports a year.
Rabies is a fatal viral illness in humans and other animals. Household pets and other animals can become exposed to the virus by playing with sick bats that can no longer fly normally. This is why it is important for people to make sure that their dogs, cats, ferrets and horses are vaccinated against rabies.
People usually come in contact with bats through a pet bringing home a sick or dead bat, or by a bat entering their homes through small openings or open windows. People who wake up from sleeping and find a bat in their room might have had an exposure without realizing it: the teeth of a bat are very small and people are sometimes bitten in their sleep without feeling it. The bat should be tested for rabies if there is any question that an exposure may have occurred.
To protect yourself and your pets, the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare offers the following tips:
For more information call your Public Health District. See a map of where in Idaho rabid bats have been found: http://healthandwelfare.idaho.gov/Health/DiseasesConditions/RabiesInformation/tabid/176/Default.aspx. Information on rabies can be found at the following website: www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dvrd/rabies/. For information about bat-proofing your home, see http://www.cdc.gov/rabies/bats/management/index.html