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posted on May 14, 2013 09:47

NEWS RELEASE--FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                        Date: May 14, 2013

Contact:  Niki Forbing-Orr
Public Information Officer
(208) 334-0693

First rabid bat found in Idaho this year; health officials urge caution

A bat found in a northern Idaho home tested positive for rabies last week, prompting public health officials to warn people throughout the state to take precautions around bats and make sure that their dogs, cats, ferrets, and horses are adequately vaccinated against rabies.

Rabid bats are detected in Idaho every year; no area of the state is considered free of rabies. Caution around bats is advised. This is the first report of a rabid bat in the state in 2013.

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. 

“People should call their health care providers immediately if they have been bitten or scratched by a bat. Medical therapy administered to people after an animal bite is extremely effective in preventing rabies,” says Dr. Leslie Tengelsen, Deputy State Epidemiologist. “It is extremely important for people to avoid bats or other wild animals that appear sick or are acting aggressively or abnormally.”

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 your Public Health District.
Information on rabies can be found at the following website: http://www.rabies.dhw.idaho.gov
For
For information about bat-proofing your home, see http://www.cdc.gov/rabies/bats/management/index.html