Public Information Officer
July 10, 2013
Rabid Bats Found in Valley County; CDHD Urges Caution
In two separate incidents within the last week rabid bats have been found in Valley County. The incidents serve as a reminder that everyone should take precautions around bats and make sure their pets are adequately vaccinated against rabies.
The first incident occurred in broad daylight when a bat flew down and attached itself to the life jacket of an adult female rafting the Middle Fork of the Salmon River. She swatted at it and was bitten. Though the bat then fell into the river others on the raft retrieved it so it could be tested. The woman and the bat were flown to McCall where she was treated to prevent rabies. The bat was sent to the State Laboratory where it tested positive for rabies. After receiving treatment, the woman flew back and rejoined the rest of her party on the river trip.
In the second incident a cat brought an injured bat into a Valley County home. The cat’s owner captured the bat and took it to a veterinarian. The bat was sent to the State Laboratory where it tested positive for rabies. The cat had been vaccinated against rabies, but remains under observation by the veterinarian.
Bats play an important role in our environment. While most bats are harmless and do not carry rabies, they are the only animal in Idaho that is a natural reservoir for the virus.
Rabies is a fatal viral illness in humans and other animals. Household pets and other animals can be 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 animals are vaccinated against rabies.
“If you have been bitten or scratched by a bat it is vitally important that you call your health care provider immediately,” says Kimberly Link, Program Manager of the Office of Communicable Disease Control at the Central District Health Department. “Medical therapy administered to people after an animal bite is extremely effective in preventing rabies.”
People usually come into contact with bats when pets bring them home, or when a bat enters the home 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. Any bat found in a home should be tested for rabies if there is any suspicion that an exposure to a person or pet might have occurred.
To protect yourself and your pets, the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare offers these tips:
- Do not touch a bat with your bare hands.
- If you have had contact with a bat or wake up to find a bat in your room, seek medical advice immediately.
- If you come in contact with a bat, save it in a non-breakable container if it is alive, or sealed and double-bagged in clear plastic bags without touching it if it’s dead. Call your public health district to determine whether testing the bat for rabies is indicated. If it is determined that you or your pet may be at risk of exposure to rabies, testing of the bat is a free service.
- Always vaccinate your dogs, cats, ferrets, and horses — even indoor pets could be exposed to rabies if a bat gets into a home.
- Bat-proof your home or cabin by plugging all holes in the siding and maintaining tight-fitting screens on windows.
- Parents should teach their children to avoid bats and to let an adult know if they find one.
For more information, call the Central District Health Department, 208-375-5211.
For information about bat-proofing your home, visit the CDC website.