Health agency seeing "above average" numbers of rabid bats; urges people to take precautions

Posted at 3:06 PM, Sep 06, 2016
and last updated 2016-09-07 05:00:06-04

The Central District Health Department is urging people to take precautions to avoid contact with bats and protect their animals after the agency reports an above-average season of rabid bats.

Seven bats have been confirmed with rabies in Ada County since June. Last year, the CDHD says, Ada County saw just two rabid bats -— and 10 bats statewide tested positive for rabies. To date, thirteen bats have tested positive for rabies in Idaho. Seven of those bats have been found in Ada County.

“This season, rabid bats have been confirmed in all types of environments —- from neighborhoods near downtown Boise to Meridian and Bown Crossing. Rabid bats are possible in all areas of Idaho. We have seen the number of phone calls about bat encounters increase in the past weeks,” said Central District Health Department Epidemiologist Sarah Correll.

Bats are the main source of rabies exposures in Idaho. The fall months can bring an increase in bat interactions, as many bats begin migrating to warmer climates, health officials explained.

Rabies can cause a fatal illness. People should call their health care provider if they have been bitten or scratched by a bat. Medical therapy given to people soon after a possible rabies exposure is extremely effective in preventing rabies.

Also, parents are encouraged to talk to their children about the importance of not touching bats or other wild animals; doing so can have serious medical consequences, officials said.

Animal owners should seek veterinary care as soon as possible if they suspect their pet has been exposed to a rabid animal, even if the pet’s vaccinations are up-to-date.

One warning sign that a bat may carry rabies is daytime activity -- which is unusual behavior for healthy bats.

However, not all rabid animals show signs of illness.

To protect yourself and your pets, CDHD offers these tips:

-Do not touch a bat with your bare hands.

-If you have had an encounter with a bat, seek medical attention right away.

-If you come in contact with a bat, save the bat in a container without touching it and contact your district health department to ask about testing the bat for rabies.

-Always vaccinate your pets for rabies, including horses. Pets may encounter bats outdoors or in the home. Unvaccinated pets who have been exposed may require euthanasia.

-Bat-proof your home or cabin by plugging all holes in the siding and maintaining tight-fitting screens on windows.