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First rabid bat of the season found


ADA COUNTY, Idaho (KIFI) - A bat found in Ada County tested positive for rabies July 12, making it the first rabid bat reported in the state this year.

Two vaccinated dogs were exposed to the rabid bat. The owner of the dogs is working with their veterinarian to assure they receive rabies boosters. Public Health officials are investigating any exposure to humans.

“Rabies is a fatal viral illness in people and animals if proper medical management isn’t sought early after an exposure to a rabid animal,” said Dr. Leslie Tengelsen, state public health veterinarian. “People should call their healthcare providers promptly if they believe they have been bitten or scratched by a bat to discuss the need for post-exposure shots, which are extremely effective at preventing rabies. People can contact their veterinarians to discuss ways to protect animals.”

Tengelsen strongly encouraged pet owners to contact their veterinarian if they believe their pets had contact with a bat, regardless of vaccination status.

“It is extremely important for people and animals to avoid all bats and other wild animals, particularly if they appear sick or are acting aggressively or abnormally,” she said.

Bats are the only known natural reservoir of the rabies virus in Idaho and should always be avoided. While most bats do not carry rabies, an average of 15 rabid bats are detected in Idaho each year, and no area of Idaho is considered rabies-free. Last year 26 bats tested positive for rabies in Idaho. As recently as 2021, an Idaho resident died from rabies after contact with a rabid bat.

The most common ways people come into contact with a bat is when a pet brings one into the home or a bat enters a home through a small opening or open windows and doors.

People sometimes wake up to find a bat in the room and may not be sure whether they have been bitten or scratched while they slept. In these circumstances, a healthcare provider should be consulted.

Bats should be tested for rabies if there is any chance a person, pet, or livestock had contact with it. There is no need to test a bat that has had no interaction with people, pets or livestock.

To protect yourself and your pets, follow these guidelines:

  • Never touch a bat with your bare hands.
  • If you had contact with a bat or wake up to find a bat in your room, get medical advice immediately. Healthcare providers may discuss the need for a life-saving series of shots called rabies post-exposure prophylaxis.
  • Call your local public health district about testing a bat for rabies. If it is determined you or your pet may be at risk of rabies, the bat can be tested for free through the state public health laboratory with approval from Public Health.
  • If you must handle a bat, always wear thick gloves.
    • If the bat is alive, save it in a non-breakable container with small air holes. If the bat is dead, the bat should be double-bagged and sealed in clear plastic bags. In either case, contact your local public health district right away about how to manage the bat and get it tested for rabies.
  • Contact your local Idaho Department of Fish and Game office about bat-proofing your home. Maintain tight-fitting screens on windows to reduce entry points.
  • Always vaccinate your dogs, cats, ferrets, and horses. Even indoor pets could be exposed to rabies if a bat gets into a home. Household pets and other animals can be exposed to the virus by playing with sick bats that can no longer fly normally.   
  • Teach your children to avoid bats and to let an adult know if they find one.

For more information about rabies in Idaho, call your local public health district or visit DHW's rabies webpage.

Article Topic Follows: Health

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