Eagle County health officials warn of increased bat activity due to recent rainfall

By Real Vail
July 13, 2012
Bat activity is increasing in the area and two instances of community members coming in contact with bats have been reported to Eagle County in the past week. Public Health Director Jennifer Ludwig says recent rains have increased insect activity, which in turn increases bat activity, and residents should be aware that bats are out and active.

Bats consume thousands of tons of night-flying insects annually and are beneficial to a healthy ecosystem. However, according to Ludwig bats can carry diseases such as rabies that can spread to people and pets, so she says it's important to avoid contact with them.

Rabies is caused by a virus transmitted by the bite of an infected animal. Rabies also can be transmitted by a scratch or if the animal's saliva gets into a cut or break in the skin.

While most bats do not carry rabies, grounded or easily handled bats or other wild animals are most likely sick or injured and should be avoided by untrained people. In the two cases this week, the animals were not captured so rabies tests could not be performed. Without the tests, all exposed individuals were advised to obtain medical treatment as a precaution against the disease.

Ludwig says the vaccine for rabies can be expensive. The treatment consists of a series of four shots, each of which can cost up to $1,000. According to Ludwig, prevention is the key. To avoid exposure to bats and rabies:

Never touch a bat or any other wild animal with bare hands. Teach children to leave animals they encounter alone and to tell an adult.
Keep your doors and windows covered with screens to keep bats out of your home. Do not leave screenless doors or windows open during the evening.
If you have bats in your house, try to find the source of their entry and seal it. Call an experienced nuisance wildlife trapper to perform the work.
If you are bitten by a bat or if you suspect you've been exposed to its saliva, safely contain the bat in a cardboard box or coffee can without touching it and contact Eagle County Animal Services at 970-328-3647 so the bat can be tested for rabies.
Seek medical treatment promptly if you come in direct contact with a bat or other wild animal and the animal is not able to be captured and tested. Possible contact may have occurred if a bat is found in areas of sleeping adults, unintended children, mentally incapacitated or intoxicated individuals, or unvaccinated pets. Bat teeth are small and bites may go unnoticed.
If there is no possibility of contact, simply open a door or window and let the bat fly out. Being in the vicinity of a bat, without any physical contact, is not a risk.
Vaccinate your pets against rabies.

For more information on bats and rabies, visit www.cdc.gov/rabies.

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