Southwest District Health officials report a bat from the Wilder area has tested positive for rabies. No human exposure took place, though, authorities said. The bat is the first this year to test positive for rabies in southwest Idaho.
“Bats are the main source of rabies exposures to humans in Idaho, and the only animal in Idaho known to naturally carry the virus,” said Brian Crawford, Director of Environmental Health Services for Southwest District Health. “Most bats are harmless and do not carry rabies, but it is best to avoid them if possible.”
Rabies is an infectious, viral disease that affects the nervous system of humans and wild and domestic animals, including dogs, cats, ferrets, and horses. It can be fatal if left untreated. It is often transmitted through the bite or scratch of a rabid animal. It is also possible, but quite rare, that people may acquire rabies when saliva or other infectious material from a rabid animal directly contacts their eyes, nose, mouth, or a wound.
People usually come into contact with bats when a pet brings home a sick or dead bat, or when a bat enters the home through small openings or open windows. People who wake up and find a bat in their room may have had an exposure without realizing it because the teeth of a bat are very small and people are sometimes bitten in their sleep without feeling it, experts said.
They should call their health care provider immediately if they have been bitten or scratched by a bat and the bat should be tested for rabies if there is any question that an exposure may have occurred. Medical treatment administered to people soon after a possible rabies exposure is extremely effective in preventing the onset of rabies.
Crawford said the most important message he can provide is not to touch the bat with bare hands. “Call Southwest District Health at 455-5400 for information about bats and instructions on how to properly handle and package them for testing,” he added.