South Alabamian

Rabid bats confirmed in Clarke home

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Two bats recently found around a residence in Clarke County tested positive for rabies.

This has caused local and state health authorities to issue a reminder about the potential for bats to transmit rabies. Bats, along with raccoons, are the primary reservoirs for rabies in Alabama. Rabies is a viral infection in mammals that is transmitted by bites, scratches or other contact with infected saliva. Rabies virus is present only in saliva and nerve tissue; it is not transmitted through contact with guano (bat feces), blood or urine from infected animals.

Laboratory testing is the only definitive method for identifying rabies-positive bats that may have exposed humans. In 2021, the Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) reported 13 laboratory-confirmed rabies-positive bats.

Although bats can pose a public health risk, they are a very important species to nature. They consume insects, biting pests and pollinate flowers.

Dr. Dee W. Jones, State Public Health Veterinarian, says, “Problems arise when bats and humans inhabit the same dwellings. It is common for bats to roost in the rafters and attics of houses, schools or other buildings and occasionally some of the bats can get inside of the living quarters. The age of the building doesn’t necessarily indicate the risk of having a bat roost. We have investigated reports of roosts in newer buildings and sports stadiums on school campuses, as well as older buildings in the community.”

According to Dr. Jones, the most important step to take following a potential bat exposure is to safely collect it and preserve it for testing.

Rabies is a fatal disease if left untreated, but is preventable if proper treatment is received soon following the bite or scratch. Anyone exposed to a bat should consult with a medical provider immediately. Vaccination for pets 12 weeks of age and older is required by state law.

For more information about rabies risk locally or in Alabama, please contact the Clarke County Health Department (251) 275- 3772, visit call ADPH at (334) 206- 5969.

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