August 15, 2008
State public health director warns people to avoid contact with bats
Dozens of bat exposures already documented as we enter busy bat season
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – Dr. Damon Arnold, state public health director, is warning everyone to avoid contact with bats as we approach the time of year when bats are the most active. Bats are the primary carrier of rabies in Illinois and already this year, 40 bats have tested positive for rabies in 13 counties.
“Last year there were an above average number of rabies cases in bats in Illinois. We’ve already received numerous phone calls this summer about people being exposed to bats,” said Dr. Arnold. “You should never try to approach or catch a bat in your home. Instead, call your local animal control agency for their recommendations.”
Typically, 40 to 60 bats each year test positive for rabies in the state. In 2007, 113 bats tested positive for rabies in Illinois.
Rabies is a virus that affects the nervous system of humans and other mammals. Humans get rabies after being bitten, or more rarely after being scratched, by an infected animal. If infectious material from a rabid animal, such as saliva, gets directly into the eyes, nose, mouth or a wound, rabies can result. Without preventive treatment, rabies is a fatal disease.
“You cannot tell by looking at a bat if it is rabid. The animal does not have to be foaming at the mouth or be exhibiting 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 in a place where a bat is not usually seen (such as in a home or on the lawn), 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:
Information about excluding bats may be found at http://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.
of Public Health
535 West Jefferson Street
Springfield, Illinois 62761
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