Number of bats with rabies on the rise
Virologists at the Washington State Public Health Laboratory routinely test bats for rabies virus if known or suspected contact with people has occurred. Typically, 200 – 300 bats are tested each year. Last month, four bats tested positive for rabies, the highest number identified in the month of May since 1998. In June, one bat has tested positive for rabies so far.
During the summer months, when bat encounters typically occur, veterinarians may receive calls from people who have had contact with a bat or suspect a family member or pet have had contact with a bat.
Any staff taking these calls should always refer questions about possible exposures to bats – whether human or pet – to their local health department so that a standard rabies exposure assessment can be performed.
If the local health department determines that no human exposure to the bat has occurred, owners of pets that have encountered a bat are strongly encouraged to submit the bat for rabies testing at Oregon Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory. Information on how to submit a bat for testing is found at their website.
If a bat involved in a companion animal exposure is not submitted or captured for testing, additional follow-up is needed depending on the vaccination status of the pets involved.
For more information please contact Dr. Ron Wohrle, Washington State Department of Health Public Health Veterinarian at (360) 236-3369 or [email protected].
By Dr. Ron Wohrle, State Public Health Veterinarian