More rabid bats identified in East Idaho; health officials strongly encouraging people to take precautions

August 17, 2017 GMT

More rabid bats have been found in East Idaho, increasing concerns among health officials who are urging the public to take precautions.

Eastern Idaho Public Health reported Wednesday that two more rabid bats have been identified. Both bats were found in Bonneville County — one in Idaho Falls and one in Swan Valley.

Further details on the incidents were not available.

In late July health officials reported that a rabid bat had been located in rural Bingham County. And earlier this month Utah authorities reported that eight rabid bats had been identified in various parts of that state and Utah residents were being strongly encouraged to make sure their pets and livestock had been vaccinated.

Eastern Idaho health officials are asking residents here to do the same.

“Rabies is a fatal viral illness in humans and other animals,” Eastern Idaho Public Health reported. “Household pets and other animals can be exposed to the virus by playing with sick bats that can no longer fly normally. This is why it is important for people to make sure that their animals are vaccinated against rabies.”

Ken Anderson, the epidemiologist at Eastern Idaho Public Health, added, “It is important if you have been bitten, scratched, or have come in close contact with a bat to contact your health care provider immediately.”

Rabies is almost always fatal once an infected person begins to experience symptoms, but the rabies vaccine along with other treatments can prevent the disease close to 100 percent of the time. So if you think you or one of your animals has been exposed, contact your doctor’s office or the nearest hospital as soon as possible.

Eastern Idaho Public Health issued the following rabies prevention tips:

Do not touch a bat with your bare hands. If you have had contact with a bat or wake up to find a bat in your room, seek medical advice immediately. The teeth of a bat are very small and people are sometimes bitten in their sleep without feeling it. Any bat found in a home should be tested for rabies if there is any suspicion that an exposure to a person or pet might have occurred.

Parents should teach their children to avoid bats, never bring them to school for show-and-tell, and to let an adult know if they find one.

Only if you or your pet has had contact or may have had contact with a bat, save it in a non-breakable container if it is alive, or sealed and double-bagged in clear plastic bags. Only do this while wearing thick gloves. Call Eastern Idaho Public Health at 208-533-3152 to determine whether testing the bat for rabies is indicated. If it is determined that you or your pet may be at risk of exposure to rabies, testing of the bat is a free service.

Rabies is deadly for pets too. Always vaccinate your dogs, cats, ferrets and horses — even indoor pets could be exposed to rabies if a bat gets into a home.

Bat-proof your home or cabin by plugging all holes in the siding and maintaining tight-fitting screens on windows. For information about bat proofing your home, go to https://www.cdc.gov/rabies/bats/management/index.html.