June 30, 2016
For More Information Contact:
- Elizabeth Beasley, 540-908-9158
Thomas Jefferson Health District, Sr. Health Promotions Consultant
Health Department Noticing Increase in Bat Exposure Reports
(Charlottesville, Va.) — Local health department officials are urging residents to take proper precautions if exposed to wild animals, bats in particular. In 2016 to date, staff at the Thomas Jefferson Health District have provided rabies post-exposure case management to 53 individuals, 30 of which were exposed to bats.
Most of the time, people know when they have been bitten by a bat, particularly if they are awake and alert at the time of the bite. There may be times, however, where a person could be bitten by a bat and not know it. “If you wake up to find a bat in the room or find a bat in a room with an unattended child or a disabled, mental impaired, or intoxicated person, you should seek medical attention, even if there is no sign of a wound,” says Dr. Bonds, Thomas Jefferson Health District Medical Director. “Residents who find they have a bat in their home can call their local health department or animal control for assistance to have the bat safely removed. Health departments can assist with having the bat tested for rabies, if indicated, and are available 24/7 to provide assistance. If the bat tests positive, health departments can provide rabies vaccination to prevent transmission.”
Residents can take precautions to prevent bats from getting in their homes by plugging holes around electrical outlets and plumbing, using window screens, closing doors tightly, and capping chimneys. The health department recommends several strategies to ensure that residents and their domestic animals stay rabies-free:
- Vaccinate all cats, dogs, ferrets, livestock and horses; keep up with booster shots
- Enjoy wild animals from a distance, even if they appear tame; never approach or feed a wild animal
- If you see a wild or domestic animal acting strangely, report it to animal control
Rabies is a deadly disease caused by a virus that attacks the nervous system and is spread from an infected animal through a bite or by getting saliva or brain tissue in a wound. It is also possible, but rare, to get rabies from infectious material that gets directly into your eyes, nose or mouth. Post exposure prophylaxis (PEP) is recommended for persons who are known to have been exposed to rabies. If a person becomes infected with the virus, rabies is almost always fatal. For additional information about rabies, contact your local health department or visit www.vdh.virginia.gov/epidemiology/DEE/Rabies.