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Health Department warns residents to avoid contact with bats

Wed August 3, 2011

DUPAGE COUNTY-With the summer heat continuing, the DuPage County Health Department is warning county residents to avoid contact with bats as they are very active during this time of year. It's important to remember that you should never try to approach or catch a bat, or any wild animal, especially in your home. 

Bats are the primary carriers of rabies in Illinois. 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. 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.  A bat that is active during the day, found on the ground and unable to fly, is more likely to be rabid.  Such bats should never be handled.

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.  Bat bites may not be felt while sleeping, and special consideration needs to be taken when a bat is found in a child's room or in a disabled person's living area. Treatment with rabies immune globulin and a vaccine series must begin immediately.

The Health Department did not report any human cases of rabies in 2010, but did report 54 potential exposures to rabies.

The following tips can help prevent the spread of rabies:

  • Be a responsible pet owner.  Keep vaccinations up-to-date for all pets.
  • Seek immediate veterinary assistance if your pet is bitten by a wild animal or exposed to a bat. 
  • Call your local police department or your local animal control agency to remove stray animals from your neighborhood.
  • Do not handle, feed or 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.

All animal bites to humans that occur in DuPage County must be reported to DuPage County Animal Care and Control at (630) 407-2800.  All potential rabies exposures must be reported to the DuPage County Health Department at (630) 682-7979, ext. 7553.

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Health Department warns residents to avoid contact with bats 

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