As Second Bat in Will County Tests Positive for Rabies, WCHD Cautions Public
WILL COUNTY HEALTH DEPARTMENT
As summer begins and people begin to enjoy the outdoors more, Will County Health Department wants to remind everyone about the potential for rabies exposure.
Alpesh Patel, Will County Health Department’s Chief Epidemiologist, says: “It is well known that the number of animal bites and bat exposures tends to increase during the spring and summer months. As the weather warms up and COVID-19 restrictions lessen, it is anticipated that Will County residents will experience increased opportunity for exposure to stray, wild and potentially unvaccinated animals.”
According to the Illinois Department of Public Health [IDPH], cases of human rabies in the United States are rare, but rabies exposures are still common with an estimated 60,000 Americans receiving the post-exposure vaccination series each year.
The rabies virus infects the central nervous system, ultimately causing disease in the brain and death. Without preventive treatment, rabies is typically fatal. However, with timely and appropriate medical care, rabies in people is 100% preventable.
Any mammal can get rabies, but the most commonly affected animals in the United States are bats, raccoons, skunks, and foxes — so the best way to avoid rabies in the U.S. is to stay away from wildlife.
Leave all wildlife alone, including injured animals. If you find an injured animal, don’t touch it; contact local authorities for assistance.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC], exposure to rabid bats is the leading cause of rabies in humans in the U.S., accounting for 70% of people who become infected.
Bat bites do not always cause a visible mark yet can still spread rabies virus through infected saliva – so any direct contact with a bat should be assessed by a clinical or public health provider.
Because pets can get rabies from wildlife and then could spread it to humans, preventing rabies in pets is also an important step in preventing human rabies cases. So, visit your veterinarian and keep rabies vaccinations up-to-date for all dogs, ferrets and cats.
There are some basic things people can do to help prevent rabies:
- Leave all wildlife alone
- Know the risk: contact with infected bats is the leading cause of rabies deaths in people in the US, followed by exposure to rabid dogs while traveling internationally.
- Wash animal bites or scratches immediately with soap and water.
- If you are bitten, scratched, or unsure, talk to a healthcare provider about whether you need treatment for rabies.
- Vaccinate your pets to protect them and your family.
Because bats are the leading cause for infection in people, the CDC urges people to take the following measures to prevent or lessen the risk of infection with rabies:
- Avoid direct contact with bats.
- If you do come into contact with a bat or if someone possibly had contact with a bat, do the following:
- Call Will County Animal Control at (815) 724-1520 to help trap the bat for testing. Testing a bat to determine if it is rabid can help to determine whether you need medical treatment.
- Contact your doctor or a local public health official to assess whether medical treatment is needed.
Already this year, two bats in Will County have tested positive for rabies.
For more information about rabies, visit CDC at Rabies | CDC.