Following reports of numerous home infestations, Utah health officials this week reminded residents of the dangers that bats can pose to one’s health.
In Utah, bats are the primary carrier of the rabies virus, health officials said.
Several recent investigations have involved bat infestations in family homes, according to Hannah Rettler, an epidemiologist with the Utah Department of Health. So far this year, 44 bats have been tested for rabies, with four positives.
“This is why it’s so important to make sure your household pets are vaccinated against rabies,” Rettler said in a news release. “In some situations, families needed to put their pets down because pets were exposed to a wild animal, hadn’t been vaccinated, and the animal couldn’t be found for testing.”
Health officials reminded the public that Utah law requires all domestic dogs, cats, and ferrets to get the rabies vaccine.
“If you find yourself near a bat, dead or alive, do not touch, hit, or destroy it and do not try to remove it from your home yourself,” Rettler added. “Call your local animal control office to collect the bat and call your health care provider or local public health department immediately to report the possible exposure and determine whether preventive treatment is necessary.”
Since bats have small teeth and claws, health officials said a bat’s bite or scratch may go unnoticed.
Rabies is fatal but preventable, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). If proper medical care isn’t heeded following a rabies exposure, the virus can affect the brain and ultimately result in death.
In the U.S., rabies is mostly found among wild animals such as bats, raccoons, skunks, and foxes. In many other countries, however, dogs still carry rabies, and most rabies deaths in people are caused by dog bites, per the CDC.