Authorities offer warning after finding bat with rabies

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Rock Springs, Wyoming — After a bat found in Rock Springs tested positive for rabies, Sweetwater County Health Officer Dr. Jean Stachon along with the Wyoming Department of Health officials warn Wyoming residents to be cautious if they encounter bats.

On Sept. 1, a bat was found crawling around on the ground in the downtown area of Rock Springs. The bat was sent to the state vet lab for rabies testing, and the bat tested positive for rabies.

 

The Rock Springs Police Department has also been notified about the presence of bats in and around a number of homes, churches and other public areas.

Bats are an important part of the ecosystem in Wyoming and can be beneficial for insect control. However, some bats may carry the rabies virus, which can lead to infections of humans and other animals, according to the Wyoming Department of Health.

Bats present a serious public health threat when they inhabit structures where humans live or congregate, because rabies is nearly always a fatal disease in humans. However, it can be successfully prevented if treatment is started promptly after exposure.

Transmission of rabies from bat to human may occur from bites, even if the bite is not recognized. Rabies can also be transmitted from scratches or other physical contact that results in a break of a person’s skin or mucous membrane exposure.

 

Preventative treatment may be considered in the following situations:

  • Physical contact with a bat or if a person has handled one, even if bite marks are not seen
  • Waking up in room in which a bat is present
  • Presence of a bat around an unattended child

The Department of Health recommends that anyone who experiences direct, physical contact with a bat should immediately contact their healthcare provider or their local public health nursing office for help and further information. If possible, any bat that comes into contact with humans should be carefully captured so that rabies testing can be performed.

Skunk and bat rabies are endemic to Wyoming, but any mammal can become infected. Wyoming has had cats, cattle, horses and dogs test positive for rabies over the years.

 

Remember to follow these tips to prevent rabies in you and in your pets:

  • Vaccinate your pets against rabies. Vaccinating your pets can protect them from getting rabies if they come into contact with infected wildlife. This can prevent you and your family from being exposed to rabies as well. See your veterinarian for details.
  • If you are bitten by an animal you should: Wash the wound thoroughly with warm water and soap, and seek medical advice from a health care provider about your need for rabies post-exposure prophylaxis treatment.
  • If you wake up and find a bat in your room or a child’s room, consult a health care provider to discuss your need for rabies post-exposure treatment. Bat’s teeth are so small you may have been bitten and did not even know it.For questions about rabies, contact Dr. Karl Musgrave at 307-777-5825 or [email protected]

The Rock Springs Police Department urges residents to make sure all pets are vaccinated for rabies. If any bats are seen crawling on the ground and not able to fly or are out during the daytime, please contact Rock Springs Animal Control at 352-1455 or Central Dispatch at 362-6575.