The following is a news release from Southeastern Idaho Public Health.
Southeastern Idaho Public Health (SIPH) has confirmed that a bat has tested positive for rabies in Bingham County. This is the fifth bat to test positive in southeast Idaho (4 in Bannock and 1 in Bingham) and the eighth in the state of Idaho. While most bats do not carry rabies, rabies is a virtually 100% fatal viral illness in humans and other animals.
“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,” said Jeff Doerr, SIPH epidemiologist.
Doerr also strongly encourages owners to contact their veterinarian if they believe their pets, regardless of vaccination status, were in contact with a bat.
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. 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 and doors. People might also wake up to find a bat in their room and may not be sure whether they were bitten or scratched while they slept. If that happens, contact your public health office.
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 bats with your bare hands.
- Be very suspicious of bat activity during daylight hours.
- If you or your child wakes up in the presence of a bat, discuss the situation with your medical provider. Seemingly insignificant exposures have contributed to several fatal cases of rabies in the past.
- If you have an encounter with a bat, seek medical attention immediately. Save the bat in a container and contact your local public health office immediately for testing options. NEVER handle a bat with your bare hands—use gloves, a towel, etc.
- Because household pets and other animals can be exposed to the virus through contact with sick bats, it is important for people to make sure that their animals (dogs, cats, horses, and ferrets) are up to date on vaccinations against rabies. If your dog or cat brings a dead bat home, collect it in a plastic bag without touching it and call your local public health office for possible testing. Also, contact your veterinarian to make sure your animal’s rabies vaccinations are up-to-date.
- Bat-proof your home or cabin by checking chimneys, roof peaks, loose screening on louvers, dormer windows, or areas where flashing has pulled away from the roof or siding. Bats can enter through holes the size of a quarter. Typically, bat-proofing is best after bats have migrated away in the fall.
For further information about rabies contact Southeastern Idaho Public Health’s epidemiologists at (208) 478-6303, or visit SIPH’s website at www.siphidaho.org or visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website at www.cdc.gov/rabies/.