DHHS provides tips for rabies prevention

July 17, 2018 GMT

The Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) is reminding residents to vaccinate pets, and to avoid wild animals after several bats in Lincoln tested positive for rabies.

“Bats are a common carrier of rabies in Nebraska,” Dr. Bryan Buss, State Public Health Veterinarian for DHHS, said in a released statement.

According to Buss, several bats have tested positive for rabies over the last three months, particularly in Lincoln where seven have tested positive this year-to-date.

“Historically, late summer is our peak time for testing bats because of higher levels of bat activity,” he continued. “During these months the possibility of exposure to rabies increases so people should be cautious around bats and other wild animals.”

According to Amy Roberts, Disease Surveillance Coordinator and Health Educator at Three Rivers Public Health Department, in Fremont one bat also tested positive for rabies in May.

“It’s important to remember that rabies is still out there, and it’s something for people to be aware of,” she said.

In addition to bats, other wildlife such as skunks, foxes, coyotes and raccoons can have rabies and transmit it to people.

Rabies is caused by a virus that affects the nervous system and is transmitted by the bite of an infected animal or if saliva from a rabid animal gets directly into an open wound or a person’s eyes, nose, or mouth, according to DHHS.

Rabies is generally fatal without preventive treatment.

According to information released by DHHS, 12 animals have tested positive for rabies year-to-date in Nebraska including eight bats, two skunks, one cat and one horse.

If someone is bitten, or believes they may have been bitten, by a bat specifically, Roberts says several steps should be taken.

“Every effort should be made to capture and test the bat involved, that is the best way to know if there is a risk for rabies,” she said. “It is important that the bats head be kept intact, because that is the place that they test for rabies.”

Roberts added that Three Rivers Public Health recommends trying to safely catch the bat, or calling animal control, before bringing it to a local veterinarian to be euthanized. The veterinarian can then help facilitate sending the euthanized bat to the UNL Veterinary Diagnostics Lab for rabies testing.

“If they wake up in a room and there is a bat, or if they themselves are awake and are bitten, it is definitely important to get the bat tested as soon as possible,” she said.

DHHS also provided several tips for those who think they have been bitten by a bat:

Seek immediate medical attention if you’ve been in direct contact with or bitten by a bat.If you wake up and find a bat in your room, you should try to safely capture the bat and have it tested. The same precautions should be used if you see a bat in a room with an unattended child.If you or a family member has been in close proximity to a bat, consult your doctor or local health department for assistance to determine if you might have been exposed to rabies and need preventive treatment.People often know when they’ve been bitten by a bat but its small teeth can make a bite mark difficult to find. It’s better to be safe than sorry. Try to safely capture the bat or call animal control, have the bat tested and seek medical advice.