June has been declared Rabies Awareness Month in New York State. The focus of the occasion is on education, particularly with respect to bats. Since 1990, 38 of 41 human rabies cases in the US involved bats. Approximately one-third of bats tested in New York are positive for rabies. In 2007, 559 animals were confirmed as infected with rabies in New York, and more than 3000 people were treated for rabies exposure. Further, more than 1400 New Yorkers undergo treatment each year following exposure to bats that were not caught and tested. State health personnel are emphasizing the need to catch and test bats if people have had contact with them, or when a bat has been present in a house with a sleeping person. They have produced a video on how to safely catch a bat in the house.
Important points to remember about rabies and bats are:
- Never touch a bat.
- Consider every bat to have rabies until proven otherwise.
- If you have slept in a house overnight with a bat, you are considered exposed. Unless the bat is caught and tested (and shown to be negative) you should undergo post-exposure treatment.
- If you or your pet may have been in contact with a bat, try to catch it (safely) so that it can be tested for rabies.
- Vaccinate your pets against rabies, even if they never leave the house.
More information on rabies and rabies prevention can be found on the Worms & Germs Resources page.
Photo: Little brown bat (M.B. Fenton)