Following is a news release from the Idaho Department of Health and Human Services.
Idaho public health officials have confirmed the first rabid bat of the season in Banok County. A man, his dog and many cats have been potentially exposed to the rabid bat. Public health officials are actively monitoring the exposures.
“Rabies is a fatal viral disease if not treated with appropriate medical treatment early after exposure. An Idaho man died last year after being exposed to a rabid bat, “said Dr. Leslie Tengelsen, a state veterinarian. “People should call their healthcare providers immediately if they think they may have been bitten or scratched by a bat to discuss the need for post-exposure shots that are extremely effective in preventing rabies.
“It is extremely important that people avoid all bats and other wildlife, especially if they look sick or act aggressively or unusually,” she added.
Tengelsen also strongly encourages owners to contact their veterinarian if they believe that their pets, regardless of vaccinated status, have been 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 are not rabies carriers, an average of 15 rabies are found in Idaho each year. No area of Idaho is considered rabies-free.
The most common way people may encounter a bat is when a pet brings it into the home or a bat enters the home through a small opening or open windows and doors. People may also wake up to find a bat in their room and may not be sure if they have been bitten or scratched while sleeping. If this happens, contact your healthcare provider.
Bats should be tested for rabies if there is any chance that a person, pet or livestock has been in contact with it. There is no need to test a bat that has not interacted with humans, pets or livestock.
To protect yourself and your pets, public health officials recommend these guidelines:
· Never touch a bat with bare hands.
· If you have had contact with a bat or have woken up to find a bat in your room, seek medical attention immediately. Healthcare providers may discuss the need for a life-saving series of shots.
· Call your local health district for rabies bat testing. If it is determined that you or your pet may be at risk of rabies, the bat can be tested free of charge through the state public health laboratory.
· If you have to handle a bat, always wear thick gloves.
· If the bat is alive, store it in an unbreakable container with small air vents. If the bat is dead, the bat should be in a double envelope and sealed in clear plastic bags. In both cases, contact the public health department immediately about how to manage the bat and how to test it for rabies.
· Contact your local Idaho Fish and Game Office for protection of your home from bats. Maintain tight-fitting window screens.
· Always vaccinate your dogs, cats, ferrets and horses. Even indoor pets can be exposed to rabies if a bat enters the home. 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 notify an adult if they find one.
Please help us improve our rabies education in Idaho by answering 10 questions anonymously online at https://app.keysurvey.com/f/41595739/140d/ (in English) or https://app.keysurvey .com / f / 41595920/1451 / (Spanish).
For more information on rabies in Idaho, call your local public health department or visit https://healthandwelfare.idaho.gov/health-wellness/diseases-conditions/rabies