Two Bats Test Positive for Rabies in Great Falls
In the past week, two bats submitted from the city of Great Falls have tested positive for the Rabies virus at the Montana Department of Livestock Diagnostic Lab in Bozeman. Previously, 23 animals have tested positive for Rabies in Cascade County since 1983: 19 bats, 2 cats, 1 skunk and 1 horse.
Rabies is a fatal disease affecting the central nervous system that is caused by a virus found in the saliva of infected animals. Rabies is transmitted by bites or exposure to the saliva of infected animals. Montana law requires local health departments to follow up on all animal bites, “to assess the risk of Rabies exposure in persons bitten or otherwise exposed to animal saliva.” Fortunately, Rabies is 100% preventable if exposure is identified early enough, and preventive treatment is safe and effective.
There are steps you can take to prevent your level of exposure to the Rabies virus. If you find a bat inside your home, cabin, tent or camper, you need to evaluate the possibility of human or animal exposure to the bat’s saliva. This can be done with assistance from the Health Department or Animal Control Officers. If no exposure was possible, dispose of the bat away from people and other animals, using gloves or a dustpan to avoid touching the bat. If you are bitten by any animal, you should immediately 1) wash the wound thoroughly with soap and water; 2) capture the animal if this can be done safely (otherwise call local animal-control services for assistance); 3) report the incident to local or state public health officials; and 4) visit your healthcare provider for evaluation regarding the need for post-exposure treatment.
Vaccinate your pets for Rabies. The greatest risk to the residents in Cascade County may be from unvaccinated pets who encounter rabid bats without the knowledge of pet owners. If an unvaccinated pet develops Rabies, they may bite owners or other citizens. Local Ordinances require that all dogs and cats over 6 months of age have current Rabies vaccinations.
Prevent Potential Exposure to Rabies with these tips from the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services and the Department of Livestock:
- Never feed or handle wild animals, especially bats.
- Vaccinate dogs and cats against Rabies. Cats are especially susceptible to Rabies exposure from bats because they catch bats more often than dogs.
- Bat-proof your house. Close outside openings larger than 3/8 inch in walls, roof and floors with caulking, steel wool or expandable foam, and put screens on all doors, windows and chimneys. Additional bat proofing information is on the CCHD website.
- Watch for abnormal wild animal behavior. If you see an animal acting strangely, leave it alone and call law enforcement or the CCHD.
To learn more about Rabies and Rabies prevention, visit the following online resources:
- CCHD’s Environmental Health Division
- Centers for Disease Control & Prevention: www.cdc.gov/Rabies
- MT Dept. of Public Health & Human Services includes new video reminding children not to play with bats. http://www.dphhs.mt.gov/publichealth/cdepi/
- MSU Agricultural Extension Service, “Coping with Bats in Montana Homes” http://www.animalrangeextension.montana.edu/articles/wildlife/Bats_Montguide.pdf