Rabies infection is virtually 100% fatal in people and animals, without timely medical intervention. Medical attention should be sought promptly for anyone that suspects they may have been exposed to rabies. Seek veterinary care promptly if you suspect your pet has been exposed to a rabid animal, even if your pet’s vaccinations are up-to-date.
Bats are the natural reservoir for rabies in Idaho. However, bats are not the only animal to worry about; all mammals have the potential to become infected with and transmit the virus under the right circumstances. Bites are considered the primary way rabies is transmitted. Other exposures that could also be considered high risk for infection 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.
In Idaho, the Idaho Bureau of Laboratories is the only facility that tests animals for rabies. Information on rabid animals detected in Idaho in 2015, including the county where the animal was collected, the species, and the laboratory result report date, are shown in the Figure as it becomes available.
Rabid bats have been reported from almost all parts of Idaho and have been detected from March to November. Between 1999 and 2014 an average of 16 bats (range of 5 – 38) per year, or 10.6% of bat submissions (range: 4.8% to 19.8%), tested positive for rabies by IBL (see RABIES IN IDAHO).
A handful of other species in Idaho have also been documented with the bat strain of rabies (see RABIES IN IDAHO). Because other mammals have tested positive for rabies, the risk of rabies exposure from bites, scratches, or other exposures to saliva and nervous tissue from mammals other than bats must not be ignored as a possible source of rabies.