Health Department discusses rabies 9.17

Written by David Green.

Several Fulton County residents have had to begin a series of post-exposure rabies shots due to encounters with bats and a raccoon.

One individual was bitten while removing a burr from the fur of a baby raccoon, while another reached out for what appeared to be a piece of paper and was startled when a bat bit her finger.  Others have awakened to find bats in their bedrooms. In each case, the animals were not available to be tested and could potentially carry rabies.

The individuals bitten are under the care of a physician and are receiving a series of five injected doses of vaccine.  Infection with the rabies virus can be deadly. In 2007, 86 animals in Ohio were confirmed positive for rabies. Bats were the most commonly confirmed rabid animal, with 66 reported positive.

Rabies is typically found in wildlife, such as bats, skunks, and raccoons, but family pets can contract rabies from contact with rabid wildlife. It is important for all pet owners to make sure that their pets are properly immunized. The rabies virus attacks the nerves and brain tissue of most animals. Sick animals spread the virus through saliva. People and animals can be infected when the virus-laden saliva gets into a wound, usually through a bite.

For indoor bat encounters, first determine if there has been any possibility of person or pet contact, such as a bite or scratch, with the bat or if the bat may have been in close proximity to an unattended young child or sleeping or impaired person, or was in a room with an unattended pet. If such possibilities cannot be ruled out, a professional animal control company should be contacted to capture the bat. Bats can be tested for rabies if the head is not severely damaged.

If professional help is unavailable, use the following precautions to capture the bat safely without damaging its head.  Close windows, the door to the room and closet doors, and wait for the bat to land.  Wearing gloves, cover the bat with a coffee can or similar container. Slide a piece of cardboard under the can trapping the bat, and tape the cardboard tightly to the can. Contact the Fulton County Health Department at 419/337-0915 to arrange examination of the bat.

If you have confirmed that there was no possibility of human or domestic animal contact, it can be allowed to leave on its own. Close the room and closet doors, open windows, and observe the bat until it leaves.

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