Nebraska health officials urge caution after 12 bats found with rabies

Nebraska News

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LINCOLN, Neb. (KCAU) – Nebraska officials are warning residents to vaccinate pets and avoid wild animals so as to avoid rabies exposure after finding 12 bats that tested positive for rabies.

The Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services said that the 12 bats were among 15 animals tested positive for rabies so far this year.

A state veterinarian said that late summer is the peak time of year for bat activity in Nebraska.

“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.”

The DHHS also said that other wildlife such as foxes, coyotes and raccoons can have rabies and transmit it to people.

Rabies is caused by a virus that affects the nervous system and is transmitted by the bite of an infected animal or if saliva from a rabid animal gets directly into an open wound or a person’s eyes, nose or mouth. Rabies is generally fatal without preventive treatment.

The DHHS offered the following tips to help prevent the spread of rabies:

  • 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.

What to do if you think you’ve had direct contact with a bat:

  • 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.

Rabies cases in Nebraska over the last few years.

  • 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)

Officials say that no human cases of rabies occurred among Nebraskans since the 1920s.

For more statistics on the number of rabies cases in Nebraska, click here.

For more general information about rabies, visit the CDC’s website. They also have instructions of how to bat-proof your home.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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