Rabies in Idaho: Teach your children to avoid bats

​​This is the time of year the department starts to receive reports about rabid bats, so it’s a good time to talk about rabies with your kids. They are out of school by now and playing outside more, so it’s a great time to teach them to avoid bats and to immediately tell an adult if they do find one.

Why is rabies so scary?

The virus is 100 percent fatal for people and animals who do not get timely medical attention. A couple of people in the United States die each year from a rabies infection, usually because they’ve been bitten or scratched by an animal and didn’t seek medical attention soon enough.

What animals in Idaho carry the rabies virus?

In Idaho, rabies is most often found in bats, but the virus also has been found in other animals. In other states, raccoons, skunks, and foxes are natural carriers of the virus, in addition to bats.

How common is rabies in Idaho?                                                  

We average about 16 rabid bat reports a year in our state. Last year, we had 12. Even though most bats aren’t rabid, you should always avoid them if you can.

What is normal bat behavior?

Bats are generally most active at night. You might see a bat during the day, but that doesn’t mean they are sick. Bats migrate into Idaho every spring, and sometimes they just need to rest along their journey and hang out on the side of a building or a tree. Just leave them alone and they will go on their way when they are ready.

Is there any way to know if a bat has rabies?

In the early stages of the disease you can’t always tell if an animal is sick. Since the only way to know for sure is to kill it and have it tested by a lab, avoiding an exposure is preferred. People usually have encounters with bats when a pet brings one home, or when it gets into the house some other way. If you wake up and find a bat in your room, you may have been exposed to rabies. They have tiny teeth, so it can be difficult to know if you’ve been bitten.

What should you do if a possibly rabid bat or animal bites or scratches you or your pet?

Washing the wound thoroughly right away with soap and water is one of the most effective ways to decrease your chance of infection. Then you should call your doctor to talk about your options. If your pet was exposed, contact your veterinarian. Even if your pet is current with their rabies vaccine, they will need a booster.

How can we protect ourselves and our pets from rabies?

First and foremost, you should never touch a bat with your bare hands. Wear leather gloves if you must touch it. It’s also a good idea to research ways to keep bats out of your home, including maintaining tight-fitting screens on your windows, and contacting your regional office of the Idaho Department of Fish and Game for information about how to keep bats out of attic spaces after they have flown to warmer areas for the winter. We also encourage that pet owners keep their dogs, cats, and horses up to date with their rabies vaccinations. Bats can get into the home, so even strictly indoor pets should be vaccinated against rabies.

(Note: A Closer Look At Your Health airs most Tuesday’s at 6:50 a.m. on KBOI News Radio 670. This is an edited transcript of the one from June 4.) 




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