SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (KMOX) — With temperatures in Illinois and Missouri already in the 70s and 80s this year, bats are becoming
active, which means the possibility of exposure to rabies is increasing.
The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) has already had one bat test positive for rabies, and two people are undergoing post-exposure treatment after coming into contact with that rabid bat.
“Bats are already active this year due to the early, warm temperatures,” said Dr. Connie Austin, state public health veterinarian. “It’s important to remember that you should never try to approach or catch a bat, or any wild animal, you find outside. Instead, call your local animal control agency for its recommendations.”
In 2011, 49 bats and one cow tested positive for rabies in Illinois. Any wild mammal, such as a raccoon, skunk, fox, coyote or bat, can have rabies and transmit it to humans.
Rabies is a virus that affects the nervous system of humans and other mammals. Humans can get rabies after being bitten by an infected animal. Rabies can also be contracted when saliva from a rabid animal gets directly into a person’s eyes, nose, mouth or a wound. People usually know when they have been bitten by a bat, but bats have very small teeth and the bite mark may not be easy to see. If you find yourself in close proximity to a bat and are not sure if you were exposed, for example – you wake up and find a bat in your room, do not kill or release the bat before calling your doctor or local health department to help determine if you could have been exposed to rabies and need preventive treatment.
Without preventive treatment, rabies is a fatal disease. If you have been bitten or have had direct contact with a bat, seek immediate medical attention. Treatment with rabies immune globulin and a vaccine series must begin immediately.
An animal does not have to be aggressive or exhibit 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. For example, skunks are normally nocturnal and avoid contact with people, but a rabid skunk 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.