October 21, 2016
Health Department Reminds People to Avoid Contact with Bats
SALT LAKE COUNTY—The Salt Lake County Health Department (SLCoHD) issued a warning today reminding people to avoid contact with bats and other wild animals they may encounter. Since August, three bats found in downtown Salt Lake City have tested positive for rabies.
To find three rabies-positive bats in one area in a short period of time is unusual,” said Dr. Dagmar Vitek, SLCoHD medical director. “We normally receive reports of only four in a year, and that’s countywide.”
The Salt Lake Valley is home to multiple bat species, and some species are also migrating through the area at this time of year. Healthy bats usually avoid people and do not pose a threat to humans; during the day, it is normal to find them hanging upside down on the side of buildings or in trees.
But bats with rabies may behave unusually, such as entering areas they would usually avoid or spending time on the ground. They may also be weak, dehydrated or unable to fly, making them more approachable than usual.
Because only a laboratory test can determine if an animal has rabies, it is important that people avoid contact with all wild animals. It is also important that pets are current on vaccines in case they come into contact with a wild animal that has rabies.
Health officials say that if you encounter a bat on the ground or in an unusual place:
- Do not touch it
- Keep children and pets away
- Report the bat’s location to your local animal control agency
If you have had contact with a bat, call SLCoHD at 385-468-4222 to be evaluated for receiving rabies vaccine.
Rabies is an infectious viral disease that affects the nervous system of humans and other mammals. People usually get rabies from the bite of an animal with rabies. Any wild mammal—such as a raccoon, skunk, fox or bat—could have rabies and transmit it to people. It is also possible for people to get rabies if infectious material from a rabid animal, such as saliva or brain matter, gets into their eyes, nose, mouth or a wound.
People cannot get rabies just from seeing a rabid animal, and feces, blood and urine do not transmit rabies.
Symptoms of rabies in humans may include insomnia, anxiety, confusion, slight or partial paralysis, excitation, hallucinations, agitation, increase in saliva, difficulty swallowing and fear of water. Once clinical signs of rabies appear, the disease is nearly always fatal.