Two bats found by a Cowlitz County resident on their property have tested positive for rabies. An investigation by Cowlitz County Health & Human Service (CCHHS) has determined pet exposures occurred and is investigating possible human exposures. These are the first bats in Cowlitz County to test positive for rabies in nearly 10 years.
The Washington State Department of Health (DOH) identifies bats as the primary animal that carries rabies in Washington. Rabies is a severe viral disease that affects the central nervous system and it is almost always fatal.
According to the County Health Officer, Dr. Alan Melnick, 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. People may not know when they have been bitten by a bat because bats have very small teeth and the bite mark may not be easy to see.
If you find yourself in close proximity to a bat in your home and are not sure if you were exposed, for example – you wake up and find a bat in your bedroom, do not release the bat before calling your healthcare provider and CCHHS at 360-414-5599 to determine the potential for rabies exposure, the need for treatment, and to decide whether or not to test the animal for rabies.
You can reduce the risk of rabies exposure by following these simple precautions:
- If you believe you have been bitten by an animal that may have rabies, clean the site with soap and water and contact your healthcare provider and CCHHS at 360-414-5599.
- Teach your children never to touch or handle bats, even dead ones. Have your children tell an adult if they find a bat at home, at school, or with a pet.
- Keep bats out of your living space by “bat proofing” your home; including screening windows and doors if left open, closing chimney dampers when not in use, and sealing any gaps in doors.
- Pets may get rabies if bitten by a rabid animal. Protect them by getting them vaccinated routinely. Dogs, cats, and ferrets are required to be vaccinated in Washington State. Consult your veterinarian for vaccine recommendations.
- Links to these resources and more are available on the CCHHS website: http://www.co.cowlitz.wa.us/1211/Zoonotic-Diseases