Rabid bat found in Teton County bedroom

JACKSON, Wyo. (KIFI/KIDK) - A bat found in the bedroom of a Teton County, Wyoming home has tested positive for rabies.

Teton County Public Health said the bat was captured and taken to Spring Creek Animal Hospital.  It was sent to the Wyoming State Veterinary Laboratory for testing.

Out of 13 bats tested so far this year, it was the first to test positive. The most recent records of rabies-positive animals in Teton County were a fox and a skunk that were tested between 2000 and 2001.  State Public Health Veterinarian, Dr. Karl Musgrave, stated, "Most likely these animals were bitten by a rabid bat and contracted rabies." 

Across the state of Wyoming this year, the state veterinarian has found 6 bats and 14 skunks to be rabies-positive out of the 435 total animals tested.

The rabies virus is almost always fatal, according to Public Health, but if post-exposure treatment is started as soon as possible, death can be prevented.  Rabies is transmitted in the saliva of warm-blooded mammals and can infect humans though bites, scratches or other physical contact that results in a break in a person's skin or exposure to their mucous membranes.  Bats are a major reservoir of rabies in Wyoming and are a concern because their bites are so small that they may not be noticeable.

Post exposure treatment may be considered for the following situations:

    *waking up in a room in which a bat is present

    *an adult witnesses a bat in a room with a previously unattended child, mentally disabled person, or intoxicated individual

    *physical contact with or handling a bat even if bite marks are not seen

Any bat that comes in contact with a human should be carefully captured for testing. In Teton County, bats can be taken to Spring Creek Animal Hospital for testing, free of charge.

Teton District Board of Health Director Dr. Dan Forman recommends anyone trying to capture a bat wear suitable gloves and attempt to keep the bat's skull intact.  It is also important for residents to put the captured or dead bat in the refrigerator to preserve the specimen until it can be dropped off.  Dr. Forman went on to say, "Please do not put the specimen in the freezer as this may also render the brain tissue unsuitable for testing."  If you are not comfortable capturing a bat found in your home, please call local pest control for assistance.  If you have any questions or concerns please call Spring Creek Animal Hospital or Teton County Public Health.  

Dr. Musgrave pointed out that bats do not normally pose a serious public health threat.  They are extremely important for insect control.  "Typically, less than 1% of bats in nature are affected by rabies at one point in time.  Bats that are acting abnormally or come into contact with humans can have a higher rate of rabies (up to 10%)."

The state sees an average of 8-10 rabid bats each year. 

For more information, call Teton County Public Health at 307-733-6401.

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