LOS ANGELES - With an unusually high number of rabid bats recorded in Los Angeles County so far this year, the Department of Public Health is reminding residents to avoid touching any wild animals, especially bats.So far this year, 21 rabid bats have been detected countywide, compared to an average of 10 per year. "The reason for the increase in the number of rabid bats reported in L.A. County is unclear. Regardless, it is important that all county residents understand the potential dangers posed to themselves and their pets as most of these rabid bats have been found in and around homes," said Jonathan Fielding, MD, director of public health. "Make sure that children know to leave bats and other wildlife alone, and keep pets away from wild animals. If you see a sick bat or other sick animal, contact your local animal control agency." One person who was attempting to rehabilitate a sick bat was bitten. The bat tested positive for rabies and the person was treated for rabies exposure. Rabies is a viral disease that affects the central nervous system, ultimately causing brain disease and death. Symptoms may include fever, weakness, confusion, anxiety, partial paralysis and an increase in saliva. Rabies is transmitted through the bite or saliva of an infected animal. The majority of rabies cases reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention each year occur in wild animals such as bats, raccoons, skunks and foxes. "Rabies poses a serious threat to pets as well as people," Fielding said. "So far this year, two dogs and a cat were found playing with live, rabid bats at their homes. Fortunately, the pets had current rabies vaccinations. If not, their owners would have had to face the difficult decision of either euthanizing their pet or putting them in quarantine for six months. All pet owners should make sure their dog or cat has an up-to-date vaccine against rabies." Dogs and cats with current vaccines that have come into contact with rabid animals may be revaccinated and kept in quarantine for 30 days to ensure they have not been infected by rabies. Bats are protected by federal law and are an important part of our ecosystem, county officials said. In nature, about 1 in 1,000 to 1 in 10,000 bats is infected with rabies. However, when a sick bat is found, the risk of that bat having rabies is much higher; approximately 10 percent. People should take the following steps to reduce their rabies risk: Make sure your pets are up-to-date on rabies vaccinations. If you are bitten by a wild animal, contact your doctor immediately to determine if you need rabies post-exposure treatment. Do not try to touch any wild animal, especially bats. If a bat is found on the ground near your home or in a public place, place a box or other container over it and call your local animal control agency. If a bat is found in your home and may have had access to pets or areas where people were sleeping, do not release it outside. If possible, put a small box or container over it and call your local animal control agency. If your pet has been found with a bat or other wild animal (except for rodents, rabbits or squirrels), report the exposure to the Department of Public Health Veterinary Public Health and Rabies Control Program by calling (213) 989-7060.
********** Published: November 25, 2010 - Volume 9 - Issue 32