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Rabies-infected Bat Found in Hood River County

September 11, 2012

Oregon State Public Health Laboratory has confirmed that a bat from Hood River County was infected with rabies. The bat was handled by a person attempting to aid the animal; this person is now undergoing preventive treatment for rabies. In a separate incident several children handled a bat found in a local apartment complex. This bat then died and was disposed of. Because the animal is not available to be tested the Health Department has advised that the children who handled the bat undergo preventive treatment for rabies.

These incidents are prompting the Hood River County Public Health Department to remind people to avoid bats and to vaccinate their pets against rabies, particularly cats. A similar incident happened in Hood River County in 2005 and 2008 when family cats found bats and then exposed other pets and members of the households.

"People can do three simple things to protect their families and their pets from rabies," said Ellen Larsen, Director of Hood River County Health Department. "Use screens in your windows, never handle bats, and make sure your cats and dogs are up to date on their rabies vaccines."  She emphasizes that this recent situation highlights the importance of educating your children to avoid contact with bats.

Larsen also advised that vaccinating pets against rabies not only protects the pet but also provides a buffer zone between humans and rabid wild animals.If an unvaccinated pet is exposed to rabies, the recommendation is that it be euthanized. Nationally, twice as many cats as dogs are reported to have rabies each year, underscoring the need for better vaccination of cats. This includes house cats since bats can enter a home.

Rabies is a viral disease that affects the nervous system after exposure to a rabid animal. Exposure is usually through a bite but can also occur through scratches and saliva contact with broken skin. It is invariably fatal once symptoms appear.

Bats play an important role in the ecosystem, especially in controlling insects and aiding agriculture, but a small percentage do carry rabies.  They pose virtually no danger to people who do not handle them.

"Bats are normally active at night," said Larsen. "If you find a bat during daylight hours, it is most likely unhealthy and should be avoided."

Contact may include a bite, a scratch, or saliva contact to your eyes, nose, mouth or an open wound.

It is also considered exposure if there was physical contact with a person where a bite or scratch could not be ruled out, even in the absence of known physical contact, where the bat had access to:

  • An unattended young child
  • A sleeping individual
  • A person under the influence of alcohol or drugs
  • A person with other sensory or mental impairment

If contact does occur DO NOT dispose of the bat, as it should be tested for rabies.  A rabies treatment must be considered for anyone that had contact with the bat if the bat tests positive for rabies, if the bat is unavailable for testing or if it is untestable. 

Please contact an Environmental Health Specialist at Hood River County Health Department for instruction and coordination of services immediately if contact occurs.

For more information on bats and rabies visit:

http://public.health.oregon.gov

or

http://www.cdc.gov/rabies/index.html