OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — The Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) says we are at a peak time of year for bat activity. Being that bats often carry rabies, they've offered a number of tips to keep people safe.
This year, DHHS says 15 animals in Nebraska have tested positive for rabies and 12 of those were bats.
“Bats are responsible for carrying much of the rabies virus in Nebraska,” said Dr. Bryan Buss, State Public Health Veterinarian for the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services. “We’re well into the peak time of the year for bat activity. People should be cautious around bats and other wild animals, like skunks, which are another common rabies carrier.”
They say coyotes, foxes, raccoons and other forms of wildlife can transmit rabies to humans through bites or exposure to saliva and offered the following tips:
- Be a responsible animal owner. Keep vaccinations up-to-date for all dogs, cats, ferrets and other animals you own.
- Seek immediate veterinary assistance for your pet if it’s bitten by a wild animal or exposed to a bat.
- Call your local animal control agency about removing stray animals in your neighborhood.
- Do not touch, feed, or unintentionally attract wild animals with open garbage cans or litter.
- Never adopt wild animals or bring them into your home. Do not try to nurse sick, wild animals to health. Call animal control or an animal rescue agency for assistance.
- Teach children never to handle unfamiliar animals, wild or domestic, even if they appear friendly. “Love your own, leave other animals alone” is a good principle for children to reduce the risk of contact with rabid animals.
- Maintain homes and other buildings so bats can’t get inside.
- If a bat is in your house, don’t let it outside until you talk to animal control or public health officials.
If you've been exposed to direct contact with a bat, they offer these tips to handle the situation:
- If you have been bitten or wake up and find a bat in your room, you should try to safely capture the bat and have it tested. The same precautions should be used if you see a bat in a room with an unattended child.
- If you or a family member has been in close proximity to, had direct contact with, or been bitten by a bat, consult your doctor or local health department for assistance to determine if you might have been exposed to rabies and need preventive treatment.
- People might know when they’ve been bitten by a bat but its small teeth can make a bite mark difficult to find. It’s better to be safe than sorry. Try to safely capture the bat or call animal control and have the bat tested.
DHHS also provided this information about past rabies cases in the state:
2019 – 15 positive cases to date (12 bats and 3 skunks)
2018 – 22 cases (17 bats, 2 skunks, 1 cat, and 1 horse, and 1 bovine)
2017 – 19 cases (10 bats, 7 skunks, and 2 cats)
2016 – 19 cases (14 bats, 4 skunks, and 1 bovine)