State Health Director Warns Residents to Avoid Contact with Bats

Staff Writer
Aledo Times Record

                      On the first day of summer, Illinois

                      Department of Public Health Director Dr. Damon T.

                      Arnold is warning Illinoisans to avoid contact with

                      bats as they start becoming more active during this

                      time of year.  Bats are the primary carrier of rabies

                      in Illinois.  Thirteen bats and one bovine have

                      tested positive for rabies already this year.

                      “Over the past couple years the Department has

                      received increasing reports and phone calls about

                      people coming into contact with, or being exposed to,

                      bats,” said Dr. Arnold.  “It’s important to remember

                      that you should never try to approach or catch a bat,

                      or any wild animal, in your home.  Instead, call your

                      local animal control agency for its recommendations.”

                      In 2010, 117 bats tested positive for rabies in

                      Illinois.

                      Rabies is a virus that affects the nervous system of

                      humans and other mammals.  Humans can get rabies

                      after being bitten by an infected animal.  Rabies can

                      also be contracted when saliva from a rabid animal

                      gets directly into the eyes, nose, mouth or a wound.

                      Without preventive treatment, rabies is a fatal

                      disease.  If you have been bitten or exposed to a

                      bat, seek immediate medical attention.  Treatment

                      with rabies immune globulin and a vaccine series must

                      begin immediately.

                      “You cannot tell by looking at a bat if it is rabid.

                      The animal does not have to be aggressive or exhibit

                      other symptoms to have rabies,” said Connie Austin,

                      state public health veterinarian.  “Any wild mammal,

                      such as a raccoon, skunk, fox, coyote or bat, can

                      have rabies and transmit it to humans.”

                      Changes in any animal’s normal behavior, such as

                      difficulty walking or an overall appearance of

                      illness, can be early signs of rabies.  For example,

                      rabid skunks, which normally are nocturnal and avoid

                      contact with people, may approach humans during

                      daylight hours.  A bat that is active during the day,

                      found on the ground or is unable to fly, is more

                      likely than others to be rabid.  Such bats are often

                      easily approached, but should never be handled.

                      The following tips can help prevent the spread of

                      rabies:

                      • Be a responsible pet owner.  Keep vaccinations

                      up-to-date for all dogs, cats and ferrets.

                      • Seek immediate veterinary assistance for your pet

                      if your pet is bitten by a wild animal or exposed to

                      a bat.

                      • Call the local animal control agency to remove

                      stray animals in your neighborhood.

                      • Do not handle, feed or unintentionally attract wild

                      animals with open garbage cans or litter.

                      • Never adopt wild animals or bring them into your

                      home.  Do not try to nurse sick animals to health.

                      Call animal control or an animal rescue agency for

                      assistance.

                      • Teach children never to handle unfamiliar animals,

                      wild or domestic, even if they appear friendly.

                      “Love your own, leave other animals alone” is a good

                      principle for children to learn to reduce the risk of

                      exposures to rabid animals.

                      • Maintain homes and other buildings so bats cannot

                      gain entry.

                      • If a bat is in your home, do not release the bat

                      outdoors until after speaking with animal control or

                      public health officials.  If you are able to do so

                      without putting yourself at risk for physical contact

                      or being bitten, try to cover the bat with a large

                      can or bucket, and close the door to the room.

                      Information about keeping bats out of your home or

                      buildings can be found by logging on to

                      www.idph.state.il.us/envhealth/pcbats.htm.

                      Information about rabies can be found at

                      www.idph.state.il.us/health/infect/reportdis/rabies.htm.