BOISE -- Health officials are warning parents after fifth bat in Ada County has tested positive for rabies.

There are serious health risks associated with touching bats, and children walking to school or waiting for the bus who find a bat should not touch it or take it to school.

It is extremely important for everyone to avoid bats or other wild animals that appear to be sick or that are acting aggressively or abnormally, says Dr. Leslie Tengelsen, Deputy State Epidemiologist. If a child finds a bat, they should leave it alone and tell an adult. Anyone bitten or scratched by a bat should call their health care providers immediately. Medical therapy administered to people after an animal bite is extremely effective in preventing rabies.

Most bats are harmless and do not carry rabies, however they are the only animal in Idaho that is a natural carrier for the virus.

If left untreated, rabies is a fatal viral illness in humans and other animals. Dog, cats and horses should be vaccinated for rabies.

To protect yourself and your pets, the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare offers the following tips:

  • Do not touch a bat with your bare hands.
  • If you have had contact with a bat or wake up to find a bat in your room, seek medical advice immediately.
  • If you come in contact with a bat, save the bat in a container without touching it and call your public health district to arrange testing of the bat for rabies. Whenever possible, the bat should be tested to rule out an exposure to rabies; this is a free service.
  • Always vaccinate your dogs, cats, ferrets, and horses - even indoor pets could be exposed to a bat that has gotten into the house.
  • Bat-proof your home or cabin by plugging all holes in the siding and maintaining tight-fitting screens on windows.
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