Rabid bats found in Canyon County; health officials urge caution around all bats

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Rabid bats found in Canyon County; health officials urge caution around all bats

CALDWELL, IDAHO – Two bats found at separate locations in Canyon County have tested positive for rabies according to Southwest District Health officials. One bat was found on the ground, alive, outside of an apartment complex. The other bat was found dead on the ground in a resident’s yard. Bats are the only natural hosts for the virus in Idaho and should always be avoided. No area of the state is considered rabies-free. While most bats do not carry rabies, we do see reports of rabies positive bats from March through November each year. Public health officials do see an uptick in exposure calls from late August through September when Idaho bats are often migrating. In 2020, there were 17 bats that tested positive for rabies in the state of Idaho. These 2 new positive bats bring the number of rabies positive bats to 13 so far this year for the state of Idaho. For more information on rabies data in the state of Idaho please visit Idaho Department of Health and Welfare’s page on rabies: https://healthandwelfare.idaho.gov/health-wellness/diseases-conditions/rabies.

The most common ways people may encounter a bat is when a pet finds a bat in the yard, brings one into the home or a bat enters a home through a small opening or open windows or doors. People may also wake up to find a bat in the room and cannot be sure they were bitten or not while they slept. Whenever possible, a bat found in an area (inside or outside) where people or pets may have been exposed should be captured and submitted for rabies testing. Specific steps for collecting a bat for testing can be found outlined in a video produced by The Idaho Department of Fish and Game: https://idfg.idaho.gov/blog/2017/06/i-found-bat-my-home-what-do-i-do

To protect yourself and your pets, public health officials recommend these guidelines:

  • Never handle a bat with your bare hands.
  • If you have had any direct contact (especially if you have been bitten or scratched) with a bat or wake up to find
    a bat in your room, safely capture the bat while wearing thick gloves and then seek medical advice immediately.
    To capture a bat safely, follow Idaho Department of Fish and Games step by step instructions found here:
    https://idfg.idaho.gov/press/tips-safely-removing-bat-your-house. Once the bat is safely contained, call your local
    Department of Fish and Game office to discuss next steps.
  • Call your local public health district about testing a bat for rabies. If it is determined that you or your pet may be
    at risk of rabies, the bat can be tested for free through the state public health laboratory.
  • If you must handle a bat, always wear thick gloves.
  • If you find a bat outdoors on the ground away from any kind of roost that appears to be weak, sick or injured,
    and unable to fly, do not handle the bat with bare hands. Make sure the bat is safe from people, pets, and natural
    predators then contact the Idaho Department of Fish and Game for guidance.
  • If the bat is alive, follow the safe handling steps from The Idaho Department of Fish and Game mentioned in the
    above. Once safely contained, call your local Department of Fish and Game.
  • If the bat is dead, the bat should be safely handled with gloves and double-bagged and sealed in clear plastic
    bags. Once complete, call Southwest District Health Environmental Health Division.
  • Never put a live bat in a freezer to kill it.
  • Contact your local Idaho Department of Fish and Game office about bat-proofing your home. Maintain tightfitting screens on windows.
  • Vaccinate your dogs, cats, ferrets, and horses. Even indoor pets risk exposure to rabies if a bat gets into a home.
    Household pets and other animals can also be exposed to the virus by playing with sick bats that can no longer fly normally.
  • Teach your children to avoid bats and to let an adult know if they find one.

Without the proper medical management, rabies is a fatal viral illness. People should call their healthcare providers promptly if they believe they may have been bitten or scratched by a bat. Medical therapy administered to people after an animal bite or other exposure is extremely effective in preventing rabies.

For more information about rabies, call your local public health district or visit:

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Media Contacts: 

Ashley Anderson           Ashley.Anderson@phd3.idaho.gov
Katrina Williams            Katrina.Williams@phd3.idaho.gov

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