A rabid bat has been found in Madison County, the first confirmed case of rabies in Madison County this year.
The bat was found in a house in Bethalto and officials found it tested positive for rabies, according to Dr. David Hall, a veterinarian and the Madison County Animal Care and Control Administrator. The bat was discovered in the house by the homeowner who caught and killed it.
So far this year, 28 bats in Illinois, including the Bethalto bat, have tested positive for the virus, according to information from the Illinois Department of Public Health. Last year 63 bats tested positive for rabies in Illinois, which is about 4 percent of all bats tested, and, average for the state.
Bats are the primary carrier of rabies in the state and the disease is contagious from animals to humans through bites. Officials do not know if the rabid bat killed in Bethalto bit any one, but, the Madison County Health Department has been notified.
Hall reminds residents to avoid contact with wildlife, especially bats, as much as possible, and keep domestic animals, such as cats and dogs, vaccinated against rabies. Anyone who sees a wild animal that appears to be sick, overly friendly, or aggressive, should report the animal to their local animal control authority. Rabid animals cannot always be identified just by looking at them. An animal does not have to be foaming at the mouth or exhibiting other symptoms to have rabies.
Changes in any animal's normal behavior, such as difficulty walking or an overall appearance of illness, can be early signs of rabies, according to the department of health. For example, rabid skunks, which normally are nocturnal and avoid contact with people, may approach humans during daylight hours. A bat that is active during the day, found on the ground or is unable to fly is more likely than others to be rabid.
Such bats are often easily approached but should never be handled.
The following tips can help prevent the spread of rabies:
* Keep vaccinations up-to-date for all dogs, cats and ferrets.
* Seek veterinary assistance for your pet immediately if your pet is bitten by a wild animal or exposed to a bat.
* Call the local animal control agency to remove stray animals in your neighborhood.
* Do not handle, feed or unintentionally attract wild animals with open garbage cans or litter.
* Never adopt wild animals or bring them into your home. Do not try to nurse sick animals to health. Call animal control or an animal rescue agency for assistance.
* Teach children never to handle unfamiliar animals, wild or domestic, even if they appear friendly.
Information about keeping bats out of your home may be found at www.idph.state.il.us/envhealth/pcbats.htm.
Information about rabies can be found at www.idph.state.il.us/health/infect/reportdis/rabies.htm.
Contact reporter Jennifer A. Schaaf at firstname.lastname@example.org or 618-239-2667.