Avoid contact with bats, Health Department warns
From press release
Officials from the Winnebago County Health Department are warning residents to avoid contact with animals such as bats and skunks, as we approach the active time of year for these animals. Bats and skunks are the primary carrier of rabies in the Midwest, and the Health Department is reporting three bats confirmed with the virus so far this year.
Rabies is an infectious viral disease that affects the nervous system of humans and other mammals. Humans most often contract rabies after being bitten by an infected animal. It is also possible, although quite rare, for people to get rabies if infectious material from a rabid animal (such as saliva) gets directly into the person’s eyes, nose, mouth or an open wound.
A case of human rabies has not been reported in Illinois since 1954, “Nevertheless, the potential is there with the increasing documentation of infected bats and some skunks in the past few years,” said Public Health Administrator Mike Bacon. “The time of year also presents increased risk, so it is important not to become complacent.”
Kara McCluskey, Winnebago County Health Department Communicable Disease supervisor, noted: “You can’t tell by looking at a bat if it is rabid. The animal does not have to exhibit symptoms to carry the virus. Early signs of rabies include changes in an animal’s normal behavior. Nocturnal animals may come out during daylight hours. A bat that is active during the day—found on the ground or unable to fly—is more likely than others to be rabid. It is important to remember that you should never try to approach or catch a bat in your home. Call Winnebago County Animal Services for bat pick-up and testing. Greater than 95 percent of bats will test negative for rabies, eliminating the need for treating exposed persons.”
Some other tips for preventing the spread of rabies include the following:
→ Never touch a bat or other wild animals, and do not feed or unintentionally attract animals with open garbage cans or litter.
→ Be a responsible pet owner and keep vaccinations up to date for all dogs, cats and ferrets.
→ Wild animals that are sick should not be brought into a home to be nursed back to health, nor should they be adopted as pets.
→ If a bat is found indoors, the structure should be thoroughly inspected for the presence of other roosting bats.
For more information, call the Health Department at (815) 720-4000 and ask for the Communicable Disease program. Information can also be found on the Illinois Department of Public Health, CDC and Winnebago County Health Department websites. For information about a referral for capturing bats or for instructions about submission of specimens for testing, call Winnebago County Animal Services at (815) 319-4100.
Winnebago County Health Department: http://www.wchd.org/
Illinois Department of Public Health Prevention & Control: http://www.idph.state.il.us/envhealth/pcbats.htm
CDC “Protect Your Family from Rabies”: http://www.cdc.gov/Features/RabiesSafeFamily/
From the Aug. 25-31, 2010 issue
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