The Snoqualmie Valley is no stranger to bats and this week the Washington State Department of Health (DOH) is warning people that rabid bats have been found throughout the state and continue to pose a risk to people and pets, especially during the summer when bats are more active.
DOH says so far this year, five bats that were in contact with people or pets tested positive for rabies, which is fairly normal, but health officials are hoping to raise awareness and keep this number low.
“There’s an ongoing risk of people and pets interacting with wild animals, including rabid bats,” said Ron Wohrle, veterinarian at the Department of Health. “To help protect yourself and your pets, avoid contact with bats or wild animals and enjoy wildlife from a distance.”
Though only 1% of bats carry the rabies virus, people are more likely to come into contact with sick bats because healthy bats usually avoid contact with people and animals and will not rest on the ground.
Bats that fly erratically, come out during the day or hang out on the ground or in bushes – and otherwise act strangely – may be rabid. Between 200 – 350 bats from Washington are tested each year following human or pet exposure, with 5 – 10% testing positive for rabies.
The DOH says about 250 to 300 people each year in Washington undergo a series of painful and expensive shots after they’ve had contact with a rabid bat, or have been exposed to a potentially infected animal.
Prompt preventive medication is crucial. Rabies is deadly once a person or animal begins to show symptoms, yet it can be prevented with appropriate medical care.
Bites or wounds from any animal should be washed right away with soap and water, and medical attention should be sought. Any bite, scratch, or other direct contact with a bat should be carefully evaluated by a health professional. Consultation is also needed if a person cannot reliably determine if they were bitten. Bat teeth are very small and a bite might not leave visible marks or be felt by a sleeping person
Washington requires all cats, dogs, and ferrets be vaccinated for rabies.