SNOHOMISH COUNTY, Wash., August 29, 2023—The Snohomish County Health Department is urging all county residents to know and follow preventive measures for rabies after a bat in the Snohomish area tested positive Monday, August 28.
Multiple domestic pets were exposed, but there are no known human exposures. The owner reported that the pets are vaccinated against rabies. Public health staff are following up to verify vaccination status and provide guidance on any other measures that may be needed, such as temporary confinement of pets for monitoring.
Bats are important nocturnal pollinators, and most are harmless. However, like all wild animals, contact with bats should be avoided as they may bite, scratch, and carry diseases. Some bats carry rabies, which is a deadly disease that can spread to humans or other animals through bites and scratches. While only a small percentage of bats in the wild carry rabies, exposures should be taken seriously. Rabies is fatal without preventive treatment.
RABIES PREVENTION REMINDERS:
- Humans and pets should avoid close contact with bats.While most bats are harmless, you can’t necessarily tell by looking whether a bat has rabies.
- Never handle bats with bare hands. Only capture bats that have had direct contact with a person or pet, or were found in your room after sleeping or in a room with a child who may have had contact. Follow instructions for how to safely capture a bat.
- Do not release or dispose of a bat that may have had contact with humans or pets unless you are instructed to by public health. The bat may be needed for rabies testing.
- Make sure all pets are up to date on rabies vaccines. Vaccination protects against infection and could save your pet’s life if there is an exposure.
- If you believe you or a family member has been exposed, contact your healthcare provider immediately.
- If you believe your pet has been exposed, contact your veterinarian immediately.
- Call the Snohomish County Health Department at 425-339-3503 if there has been an exposure in your home.
CONCERNING EXPOSURES TO BATS CAN INCLUDE:
- a bat bit or scratched a human or pet,
- you found a bat when you woke up, and it was in the room where you were sleeping, or
- you found a bat in the room with a child or someone who has been intoxicated or otherwise incapacitated.
Statewide, seven other bats have tested positive for rabies so far in 2023, according to the Washington State Department of Health.
Bats often prefer spaces such as attics, barns, outbuildings, or cabins – anywhere dark where there are plenty of insects to eat. When entering or clearing out spaces like these that are infrequently accessed, be aware that bats may be present. Consider wearing gloves, long sleeves, and long pants until you’re sure the space is bat-free.
Never handle wild animals, including bats. Teach children to watch wild animals from a safe distance without approaching or touching. Encourage children to tell an adult if they find a bat (living or dead) at home or with a pet.
Bat-proofing your home is an important way to keep them out of living and sleeping spaces, as well. Do this by securely installing window screens that are free of holes, capping chimneys, repairing any holes in siding or roofing, and making sure doors to the outside close fully.
Rabies is a severe viral disease. It infects the central nervous system and is almost always deadly once the virus attacks your body. Preventive treatment is available if you’ve been bitten or scratched by a bat or other potentially rabid animal. It is important to contact your medical provider right away.
Symptoms normally occur between two and eight weeks after exposure, though the incubation period can vary. Early symptoms include headache, fever, and pain at the bite or scratch site. As the disease progresses, symptoms include agitation, confusion, paralysis, and difficulty swallowing. Without timely preventive care, the disease is typically fatal within days or a few weeks of onset.
More information about bats and rabies is available from the Washington State Department of Health: www.doh.wa.gov/rabies.
SOURCE: Snohomish County Health Department