BANNOCK COUNTY, Idaho — The first rabid bat of the season in the state was confirmed by Idaho public health officials in Bannock County on Friday.
The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare says officials are actively following up on exposures after a man, his dog and cats may have been exposed.
"Rabies is a fatal viral illness if not treated with proper medical management early after exposure. An Idaho man died last year after being exposed to a rabid bat," said Dr. Leslie Tengelsen, state public health veterinarian. "People should call their healthcare providers promptly if they believe they may have been bitten or scratched by a bat to discuss the need for post-exposure shots, which are extremely effective in preventing rabies."
Bats should always be avoided, according to IDHW. An average of 15 rabid bats are detected in Idaho each year.
Public health officials recommend these guidelines to protect people from rabies:
• Never 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. Healthcare providers may discuss the need for a life-saving series of shots.
• Call your local public health district about testing a bat for rabies. If it is determined that you or your pet may be at risk of rabies, the bat can be tested for free through the state public health laboratory.
• If you must handle a bat, always wear thick gloves.
• If the bat is alive, save it in a non-breakable container with small air holes. If the bat is dead, the bat should be double-bagged and sealed in clear plastic bags. In either case, contact the public health district right away about how to manage the bat and how to get it tested for rabies.
• Contact your local Idaho Department of Fish and Game office about bat-proofing your home. Maintain tight-fitting screens on windows.
• Always vaccinate your dogs, cats, ferrets, and horses. Even indoor pets could be exposed to rabies if a bat gets into a home. Household pets and other animals can be exposed to the virus by playing with sick bats that can no longer fly normally.
• Teach your children to avoid bats and to let an adult know if they find one.
Rabid bats were found in at least three Idaho counties in 2021. That same year, a Boise County man died after an encounter with a rabid bat on his property.
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