The season’s first rabid bat has been reported in Idaho, after it flew into a northern Kootenai County home and the residents found it lying on their staircase. “It was still alive, and they just kind of used a towel to pick it up and put it outside,” said Cynthia Taggart, spokeswoman for the Panhandle Health District. “They thought it would fly away, but it didn’t, it died – and that’s not a good sign. They wisely sent it off to us for testing and it was rabid.” You can read my full story here at spokesman.com.
Everyone in the house is now being treated for rabies, Taggart said, as there’s no way to know whether anyone was bitten by the bat. “There’s no signs of bites,” she said, “But bats have such sharp teeth that they can bite and you don’t know.” Current rabies treatment involves a series of five shots administered over a couple of weeks; two of the shots are given on the first day of treatment, which must commence within 10 days of exposure. “No one’s ever developed rabies who started within that 10-day window, and these people did,” Taggart said.
Rabies is considered endemic in Idaho’s bat population, and rabid bats have been found statewide. Usually, they don’t turn up until July, but Taggart said, “This last week of hot weather was really out of the ordinary for us, so I guess a lot of bats woke up. They hibernate over the winter.”
State health officials are warning Idahoans to stay away from bats. “People should call their health care providers immediately if they have been bitten or scratched by a bat. Medical therapy administered to people after an animal bite is extremely effective in preventing rabies,” a viral illness that is fatal in humans and animals, said Dr. Leslie Tengelsen, deputy state epidemiologist. “It is extremely important for people to avoid bats or other wild animals that appear sick or are acting aggressively or abnormally.”
Said Taggart, “It’s important to let people know that if they do have a bat in their house, that they’re considered exposed. … They don’t know that it hasn’t bitten anybody, so they should right away get a hold of us.”
The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare has these tips:
·Do not 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.
·If you come in contact with a bat, save it in a non-breakable container if it is alive, or sealed and double-bagged in clear plastic bags without touching it if it’s dead. Call your public health district to determine whether testing the bat for rabies is indicated. If it is determined that you or your pet may be at risk of exposure to rabies, testing of the bat is a free service.
·Always vaccinate your dogs, cats, ferrets, and horses — even indoor pets could be exposed to rabies if a bat gets into a home.
·Bat-proof your home or cabin by plugging all holes in the siding and maintaining tight-fitting screens on windows.
·Parents should teach their children to avoid bats and to let an adult know if they find one.