Rabies in Idaho
In Idaho, only bats are known to be natural reservoirs for rabies. However, bats are not the only animal to worry about, when it comes to rabies. All mammals may become infected and ALL mammals should be considered potentially rabid when they bite, scratch or otherwise expose people or pets to their saliva. Other exposures that could also be considered high risk for infection may include contacting nervous tissue (brain or spinal cord) from a potentially rabid animal or waking in a room with a bat, without having a clear idea of the bat’s behavior during the night.
Between 1999 and 2012 an average of 15 bats (range of 5 – 38) per year, or 10.6% of bat submissions (range: 4.8% to 19.8%), tested positive for rabies by the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare Bureau of Laboratories (IBL) (see Table).This data only refers to information on animals that actually were submitted for testing to IBL; the actual frequency of rabies in bats and other species in Idaho is not known. Rabid bats have been reported from almost all parts of Idaho and have been detected from May to November. A handful of other species in Idaho have also been documented with the bat strain of rabies (see Table). Because other mammals have tested positive for rabies, the risk of rabies exposure from bites, scratches, or other exposures to saliva from mammals other than bats must not be ignored as a possible source of rabies.
Rabies infection is virtually 100% fatal in people and animals, without timely medical intervention. If a person has been exposed to a rabid animal they should discuss the situation with a healthcare provider as soon as possible to determine if the rabies vaccination series is warranted (this is known as rabies post-exposure prophylaxis). If a pet or other domestic animal is exposed to a potentially rabid animal (e.g., attacked by a wild animal, caught a bat, bitten by another domestic animal) the owner should discuss the animal’s exposure with their veterinarian and decide what medical management or confinement options would be appropriate. Pet owners should always keep their pet’s rabies vaccinations current. Even vaccinated animals should be referred to a veterinarian to make sure that they are being properly protected from this deadly virus.