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Public health officials report first rabid bat exposure of the season in Bonneville and Payette Counties


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The following is a news release from the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare.

IDAHO FALLS – Idaho public health officials are reporting two bats have tested positive for rabies in Bonneville and Payette counties. These are the first rabid bats detected this season.

In Bonneville County, a vaccinated dog found the rabid bat. The dog and the owner had potential exposures to the rabid bat and are seeking medical care from both their veterinarian and healthcare provider.

In Payette County, one person was exposed to the rabid bat and has sought care from a healthcare provider.

“Rabies is a fatal viral illness if not treated with proper medical management. People should call their healthcare providers promptly if they believe they may have been bitten or scratched by a bat. Post-exposure treatment administered to people after an animal bite or other exposure is extremely effective in preventing rabies,” says Dr. Leslie Tengelsen, a state public health veterinarian. “It is extremely important for people to avoid all bats and other wild animals, particularly if they appear sick or are acting aggressively or abnormally.”

Bats are the only known natural carriers 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. No area of Idaho is considered rabies-free.

The most common ways people may encounter a bat is when a pet brings one into the home or a bat enters a home through a small opening or open windows or doors. People may also wake up to find a bat in the room and may not be sure whether they might 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 might have been in 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, public health officials recommend these guidelines:

  • Never 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.
  • Call your local public health district about testing a bat for rabies. If it is determined that you or your pet may be at risk of rabies, the bat can be tested for free through the state public health laboratory.
  • 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 it is dead, the bat should be double-bagged and sealed in clear plastic bags.
  • Never put a live bat in a freezer to kill it.
  • Contact your local Idaho Department of Fish and Game office about bat-proofing your home. Maintain tight-fitting screens on windows.
  • 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 the website.