Bat found in Shiawassee County tests positive for rabies

LANSING — The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) laboratory confirmed Friday that a bat found in Shiawassee County tested positive for rabies.

Rabies is most commonly transmitted by a rabid animal bite or scratch, the Shiawassee County Health Department said Monday. Most reported cases occur in wild animals such as raccoons, skunks, bats, and foxes. In 2018, 77 bats and 2 skunks tested positive for rabies in Michigan.

If a bat is found inside the home, health department officials recommend collecting the bat through the following means:

n Wear leather gloves. A bat should never be handled with bare hands.

n Place a container over the bat

n Slide a piece of sturdy cardboard under the container

n Firmly secure the cardboard or the lid to the container with tape.

n A dead bat should be submitted for rabies testing. Do not crush the bat or put the bat in the freezer

n Contact Communicable Disease Nurse at the Shiawassee County Health Department at (989) 743-2356. If Health Department is closed, keep bat cold until you are able to take it to the Health Department

Rabies can only be confirmed by laboratory testing.

Most people know when they’ve been bitten. However, exposure can occur without an individual knowing they’ve been scratched or bitten, especially with bats. Bats have small teeth and tiny claws, making it difficult for an exposure to be detected.

A sleeping person awakening to a bat in the room is considered exposed.

It is also considered an exposure when a bat is found in a room with an unattended child, or a mentally impaired or intoxicated person. Under such circumstances, it is very important to capture the bat for testing.

Death from the disease is most frequently a result of individuals being unaware of their exposure, or from failure to seek medical attention after being bitten and/or scratched. On average two to three people in the United States die each year due to rabies.

If a pet has been exposed, it’s important to capture the bat and submit it for testing. If this can’t be done, follow up with a veterinarian or Disease Surveillance at (989) 743-2356. All cats and dogs must have current rabies vaccinations.

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