A bat that was submitted by a homeowner to Grundy County Animal Control for testing has tested positive for rabies.
Bats are starting to become more active, which means the possibility of exposure to rabies is increasing. Bats are the primary carrier of rabies in Illinois. The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) has already had eight bats test positive for rabies this year.
“Never try to approach or catch a bat, or any wild animal, you find outside. Bats and wild animals that let people approach them are often not healthy,” said Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. LaMar Hasbrouck. “Instead, call your local animal control agency for its recommendations on how to handle the animal.”
In 2012, 63 bats tested positive for rabies in Illinois. Four percent of all bats tested last year were positive for rabies, which is average in Illinois. Any wild mammal, such as raccoons, skunks, foxes, coyotes and bats, can have rabies and transmit it to humans.
Rabies is a virus that affects the nervous system. People can get rabies after being bitten by an infected animal. Rabies can also be contracted when saliva from a rabid animal gets directly into a person’s eyes, nose, mouth or a wound.
If you find yourself in close proximity to a bat and are not sure if you were exposed — for example, you wake up and find a bat in your room — do not kill or release the bat before calling your doctor or local health department to help determine if you could have been exposed to rabies and need preventive treatment. If the bat is available for testing and test results are negative, preventive treatment is not needed.
Without preventive treatment, rabies is typically fatal. If you have been bitten or have had direct contact with a bat, seek immediate medical attention. Treatment with rabies immune globulin and a vaccine series must begin quickly.
An animal does not have to be aggressive or exhibit other symptoms to have rabies. Changes in any animal’s normal behavior can be early signs of rabies. A bat that is active during the day, found on the ground, or is unable to fly, is more likely than others to be rabid. Such bats are often easily approached, but should never be handled.
The following tips can help prevent the spread of rabies:
• Be a responsible animal owner. Keep vaccinations up-to-date for all dogs, cats, ferrets and other animals you own.
• Seek immediate veterinary assistance for your pet if your pet is bitten by a wild animal or exposed to a bat.
• Call the local animal control agency about removing stray animals in your neighborhood.
• Do not touch, feed or unintentionally attract wild animals with open garbage cans or litter.
• Never adopt wild animals or bring them into your home. Do not try to nurse sick, wild animals to health. Call animal control or an animal rescue agency for assistance.
• Teach children never to handle unfamiliar animals, wild or domestic, even if they appear friendly. “Love your own, leave other animals alone” is a good principle for children to learn to reduce the risk of exposures to rabid animals.
• Maintain homes and other buildings so bats cannot get inside.
• If a bat is in your home, do not release the bat outdoors until after speaking with animal control or public health officials. If you can do it without putting yourself at risk for physical contact or being bitten, try to cover the bat with a large can or bucket, and close the door to the room.
Information about keeping bats out of your home or buildings can be found by logging on to www.idph.state.il.us/envhealth/pcbats.htm.
Information about rabies can be found at www.idph.state.il.us/health/infect/reportdis/rabies.htm.