Payette County resident seeks health care after exposure to rabid bat

A bat in flight could be ferrying disease to other species.

The following information was submitted in a news release from Southwest District Health on June 7.

PAYETTE COUNTY — Idaho public health officials are reporting two bats have tested positive for rabies in Bonneville and Payette counties, according to a news release from Southwest District Health on Monday. These are the first rabid bats detected this season.

In Payette County, a person was exposed to a rabid bat and has sought care from a health-care provider.

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

An update on the condition of the people and the dog were not provided in the news release.

“Rabies is a fatal viral illness if not treated with proper medical management. People should call their health-care providers promptly if they believe they may have been bitten or scratched by a bat. Postexposure treatment administered to people after an animal bite or other exposure is extremely effective in preventing rabies,” Dr. Leslie Tengelsen, state public health veterinarian, said in the release. “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 health-care 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.

Stay safe

To protect people and your pets, public health officials recommend the following 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.

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