Rabid Bats in North Idaho – Be Alert About the Dangers of Rabies



Third Rabid Bat Found Before Summer’s Start


Coeur d’Alene – Northern Idaho’s third rabid bat in the last month was caught this week in Coeur d’Alene by a family pet dog, prompting public health officials to remind people not to handle bats and to make sure their pets’ rabies vaccinations are up to date.

“It’s unusual to have three rabid bats this early in the year,” says Dave Hylsky, an epidemiologist at the Panhandle Health District (PHD). “People need to remember, and to teach their children, not to touch bats or any wild animals with their bare hands.”

No people were directly exposed to the latest rabid bat. The family dog had been vaccinated and was re-vaccinated after touching the bat. The dog will remain under watch at home for several weeks.

Another bat in Coeur d’Alene and one in Spirit Lake within the last month also tested positive for rabies. One exposed a pet cat which is also under watch at home. The other bat possibly exposed three people inside their home while they were sleeping. The people underwent a series of five shots each to protect them from rabies.

Bats live throughout northern Idaho and play a vital role in our environment, dispensing seeds, pollinating plants and eating insects. But about 5 percent of the bats tested in this area carry the rabies virus.

Rabies is a fatal illness in people and other mammals. Pets and other mammals can get exposed to the virus when they play with sick bats that no longer fly normally. That’s why keeping pets’ rabies vaccination current is important.

People may get exposed to rabies when bats enter their homes or when they touch a bat with their bare skin. Bats can enter homes through openings the size of a quarter. People who wake up with a bat in their room may have been exposed without knowing it. Bats have fine teeth and people may not realize a bat bit them.

If a bat is found in a home and a possible exposure cannot be ruled out or a pet or human has direct contact with a bat, the bat should be tested for rabies. The bat should be trapped and brought to the Panhandle Health District dead and sealed in double plastic bags.

When capturing a bat, people should wear long sleeves and heavy leather gloves.  They should use a heavy plastic container to capture and secure the bat and take care not to expose themselves or others to bat saliva or bites during bat capture.

There is no charge for rabies testing, but testing is only provided if a person or pet was exposed. Anyone planning to bring a bat to PHD for testing should call 415-5220 first.