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Mon., Sept. 9, 2013, 7:59 a.m.

H&W: Teach kids to avoid bats

Idaho's Department of Health & Welfare is advising parents and schools to teach kids to avoid bats, and never handle live or dead bats that they may come across. The warning follows a 2006 incident in which children walking to school in Boise found a dead bat and brought it to school, exposing a number of schoolchildren to the potentially deadly rabies virus. “It is very important for parents to teach children to never handle a bat, or any other unfamiliar wild or domestic animal, even if they appear friendly,” said Dr. Leslie Tengelsen, Idaho deputy state epidemiologist. “Don’t let them bring bats into show-and-tell, and teach children to report any contact with a bat to an adult right away.” Click below for H&W's full announcement, including tips to protect yourself and your pets; 20 bats have tested positive for rabies in Idaho so far this year, and at least 49 people have undergone rabies shots after exposure. The most recent rabid bat found in Idaho was captured in central Idaho over the Labor Day holiday weekend, after swooping down on people in an outdoor pool.

www.healthandwelfare.idaho.gov

 

 

NEWS RELEASE--FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                DATE: Sept. 9, 2013

 

 

Teach Children to Avoid Bats

 

With schools around the state back in session, public health officials are asking parents and schools to talk with children about never handling live or dead bats. In 2006, children walking to school in Boise found a bat, which they took to school and exposed a number of other curious children to the potentially deadly rabies disease.

“It is very important for parents to teach children to never handle a bat, or any other unfamiliar wild or domestic animal, even if they appear friendly,” says Dr. Leslie Tengelsen, Idaho Deputy State Epidemiologist. “Don’t let them bring bats into show-and-tell, and teach children to report any contact with a bat to an adult right away.”

It is extremely important for people to avoid bats or other wild animals that appear sick or are acting aggressively or abnormally. “People should call their healthcare providers immediately if they have been bitten or scratched by a bat. Medical management of people after an animal bite is extremely effective in preventing rabies, a virtually 100% fatal infection,” says Dr. Tengelsen.

Bats play an important role in our environment. While most bats are harmless and do not carry rabies, they are the only animal in Idaho that is a natural reservoir for the virus and should be appreciated from a distance.

Rabid bats are detected in Idaho every year; no area of the state is considered free of rabies. Twenty bats have tested positive for rabies in Idaho so far this year. The seasonal average for rabid bats in Idaho is 15. At least 49 people have undergone rabies vaccinations after suspected or confirmed exposures to a rabid animal. The most recent rabid bat was captured in central Idaho over Labor Day weekend after swooping down on people in an outdoor pool. 

To protect yourself and your pets, the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare offers these tips:

·      Parents should teach their children to avoid bats, never bring them to school for show-and-tell, and to let an adult know if they find one.

·      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. The teeth of a bat are very small and people are sometimes bitten in their sleep without feeling it. Any bat found in a home should be tested for rabies if there is any suspicion that an exposure to a person or pet might have occurred.

·      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; always wear thick gloves. 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.

·      Rabies is deadly for pets, too. 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. For information about bat-proofing your home after bats have migrated away, see http://www.cdc.gov/rabies/bats/management/index.html

 

For more information, call your Public Health District.  Information on rabies can be found at the following website: http://www.rabies.dhw.idaho.gov  




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Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Z. Russell joined The Spokesman-Review in 1991. She currently is a reporter in the Boise Bureau covering Idaho state government and politics, and other news from Idaho's state capital.

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