While bats, skunks, raccoons and other wild animals might be interesting to look at. touching them—even when they’re dead—could expose you to rabies.
The County of San Diego Health and Human Services Agency (HHSA) reports that four of 20 bats submitted for rabies testing to HHSA’s Public Health Laboratory since January 1, 2010 have tested positive for rabies. All four bats tested positive for rabies during the month of June. The County has not provided details on where the rabid bats were found.
HHSA is reminding the public to stay away from bats and other wild animals to prevent possible exposure to rabies.
“Bat contact and sightings often occur this time of year. However, bats may be carriers of rabies, a disease that can be deadly,” said Wilma Wooten, M.D., M.P.H., County Public Health Officer. “If you see a bat, dead or alive, don’t touch it.”
The small teeth of a bat can make a bite difficult to find. Rabies transmission may also occur if a bat’s saliva comes in contact with a person’s open wounds or mucous membranes such as your eyes, nose or mouth. The local medical community has also been alerted.
Bats are most often observed by people during the summer months when young bats leave the roost, insects are abundant, and people leave windows open at night to counter the heat. If a bat is found in your home or on your property, do not touch it. Contact a local animal control agency to pick it up.
If direct contact with a bat does occur, wash the affected area thoroughly with soap and water and get medical advice immediately. The bat should be safely captured and picked up by a local animal control agency to submit for rabies testing. For service in the City of San Diego and the unincorporated areas of the county, call (619) 236-4250.
While rabies in humans is almost always fatal, it can be prevented by avoiding contact with wild, stray, and unknown domestic animals; ensuring pets are up-to-date on rabies vaccinations; and receiving prompt medical advice following animal bites and other significant exposures to potentially rabid animals.
Rabies shots can prevent onset of the deadly disease if given promptly after exposure. The rabies shots now given in the arm, unlike in the past.
For more information about rabies and bats, please visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website at: http://www.cdc.gov/rabies/bats/index.html