Bat in Calumet County had rabies

Posted at 11:15 a.m. on August 11, 2017

The Brillion News

CHILTON – The Calumet County Department of Health and Human Services said a bat in Calumet County tested positive for rabies.

The bat was found on August 8, but the health agency is not disclosing the location.

Several species of bats are common in Wisconsin. The two broad groups are “tree bats” and “cave bats.”

To learn about Wisconsin bats, visit http://wiatri.net/Inventory/Bats/AboutBats/images/batsofwisc.pdf

Rabies is transmitted by a virus in the saliva of an infected animal, usually through a bite.

Any mammal, including bats, can get rabies. In our area, raccoons, skunks, foxes, and bats are the main animals that get rabies. Rabies can be passed to a human, pet, or farm animal by a bite or a scratch from a rabid animal. If this occurs, follow-up is needed right away. It is always best to stay away from wild animals, including stray dogs and cats, and to be careful with other people’s pets.

People who have been bitten need to see their health care provider about the need for tetanus, antibiotics, and to discuss the need for rabies prophylaxis. The bite must be cleaned well with warm water and soap. Whenever a person sees a stray animal, an animal acting strangely, or if someone is bitten, the local law enforcement agency or other animal control agency could be called.

Pet owners should make sure the pet is up-to-date with their vaccinations including rabies.

Bats are a beneficial species. They are an important part of any local ecosystem, with some species eating significant numbers of potential agricultural pests such as beetles and moths.

Bats are often toted by bat conservation groups as natural mosquito control agents, but in reality, bats probably do not play a significant role in the control of mosquito populations.  Human rabies cases are rare in the U.S., with an average of only two to three cases documented each year, but the vast majority of these cases in recent years have been caused by strains of rabies virus associated with bats.

It is estimated that in the U.S., 40,000 people each year receive rabies post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP), many of these following an exposure to bats.

Some of these treatments can be avoided if the bat can be collected and tested for rabies.  If the animal tests negative for rabies, no treatment is necessary.

Bats are the animal most often found to be rabid in upper Midwest states.

Despite that, the rate of rabies in the general populations of bats is thought to be less than one percent.

An average of six percent of the bats tested at the Michigan Department of Community Health are positive for rabies. That’s because the bats that get submitted for testing are more likely to be sick bats that are behaving abnormally and are therefore found inside the home or are caught by pets.

Bats have very small teeth, and a bite from a bat may not be felt.

Don’t touch

Any direct contact with a bat represents a potential exposure to rabies.  Other situations that might qualify as exposures include finding a bat in the same room as a person who may not be aware that contact has occurred, such as finding a bat in the room with a sleeping person, a child, or someone who is mentally disabled or intoxicated.

If you think you may have been exposed to rabies from a bat, try to trap the bat.

Safely collect the bat and keep it until the need for rabies testing has been evaluated. Wearing leather gloves, place a coffee can or box over the bat, then use a piece of cardboard with holes punched in it to slide under the can or box, taping this cover firmly to the container.

Contact your local health department or animal control agency to discuss the need for testing. If the bat tests negative for the presence of rabies virus, then no treatment for the exposed person is required.

If the bat tests positive for rabies, or the bat is not available for testing then the exposed person should receive rabies PEP (Rabies Post-Exposure Prophylaxis Regimen).

Rabies infection is preventable if treatment begins soon after exposure to the virus.  Contact your local health department for help in determining the need for rabies PEP.

Information for this report came from Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin public health and natural resources sources.

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