All mammals can become infected with the rabies virus and all mammals should be considered potentially rabid when they bite, scratch or otherwise expose people or pets to their saliva.
Rabies infection is virtually 100 percent fatal in people and animals, without timely medical intervention. Medical attention should be sought promptly for anyone that suspects they may have been exposed to rabies. Seek veterinary care promptly if you suspect your pet has been exposed to a rabid animal, even if your pet’s vaccinations are up-to-date.
Bats are a natural host (reservoir) for rabies in Idaho but all mammals have the potential to transmit the virus under the right circumstances. Bites are the primary way rabies is transmitted. Other exposures that could also be considered high risk for infection include contacting nervous tissue (brain or spinal cord) from a potentially rabid animal or waking in a room with a bat, without having a clear idea of the bat’s behavior during the night.
Rabies in Idaho
The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare, Division of Public Health, Bureau of Laboratories (IBL) is the only facility in Idaho that tests animals for rabies. Information on rabid animals detected in Idaho annually, including the county where the animal was collected, the animal type, and the date of the laboratory report, are presented on the table below as it becomes available.
Historically, rabid bats have been reported from most counties in Idaho and have been detected from March to November. Between 2008 and 2022 an average of 15 bats (range of 8 - 27) per year tested positive for rabies. Of all bat submissions, an average of 9.5% of annual bat submissions (range: 5% to 19.3%), tested positive for rabies. This percentage refers only to bats submitted for testing; the actual frequency of rabies in the overall bat population in Idaho is not known, but likely significantly lower.
A handful of other animal types in Idaho have also been documented with the “bat strain” of rabies virus. Because other mammals have tested positive for rabies, the risk of rabies exposure from bites, scratches, or other exposures to saliva and nervous tissue from mammals other than bats must not be ignored.