Rabies Warning

By: Jessica Aspiras Email
By: Jessica Aspiras Email

Monday morning a bat was brought to the Branch-Hillsdale-St. Joseph Community Health Agency. It's one of three bats that have been found in homes in Hillsdale County.

"Screens are not in place at this time," says Health Officer Stephen Todd. "Because of the hot weather, people are opening up extra windows and doors, and so bats are gaining access to inside buildings."

When any bat enters a home, especially a bedroom, the risk for contracting rabies increases. Of the three bats in Hillsdale County -- one was confirmed positive for the disease and the other two are pending test results. In Clinton County 37 bats have been found inside homes. The Mid-Michigan District Health Department confirms five had rabies.

"This is part of a cycle we've seen where about every three years we see an increase in the number of bats," explains Medical Director Dr. Robert Graham. "And with an increase in the number of bats, we see an increase in the number of positives."

Rabies is a viral disease transferred through saliva -- usually through the bite of an infected animal. Symptoms like a fever, headache, anxiety, and insomnia will follow roughly 20-60 days later. Once signs become apparent, death shortly follows. That's why anyone who thinks they may have been exposed should seek immediate treatment.

"There are two medicines," says Dr. Graham. "There's rabies immune globulin and five doses of rabies vaccine that we put in the arm."

If you do find a bat, in your home, you want to capture it carefully using gloves. It must be dead before it's brought to a health department, so either suffocate it, drown it, or take it to a vet to be euthanized. You'll then want to bag it.

"It's important that the bat or animal is refrigerated," Todd says. "Don't freeze it, because the brain in the animal is what's actually tested. And freezing it can destroy the procedure."

If you are going to open windows or doors, make sure there are well-maintained screens. This will decrease the chances of a bat entering your home.

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