Put Bats On Your Radar Screen

Armen Hareyan's picture
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Bats are the primary reservoir for rabies in the Pacific Northwest, and have been found in almost every county in Washington.

Snohomish Health District reports that its phones are warming up for summer with questions about bats and keeping healthy around them. Rabies causes a rare but often fatal illness in humans, and in wild and domestic animals.

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"Rabies is 100 percent preventable," said Doctor Gary Goldbaum, who leads the county's public health agency. "When it comes to bats, the most effective strategy is to avoid them." He encouraged people to evaluate their buildings for bat habitat, make entry by bats impossible, and to vaccinate domestic animals against the rabies virus.

Last year the local public health agency tested 26 bats for rabies, and 3 of them were positive for rabies. Between January 1, 1990 and December 31, 2006, Snohomish Health District discovered rabies in 26 bats of 279 collected and tested. The night-flying mammals were collected at residences and vacation cabins throughout rural and urban parts of the county.

So far in 2007, three rabid bats have been identified in Washington; last year 15 rabid bats were identified statewide. There were no human cases of rabies in the state in 2006, largely due to safe handling of bats, high rates of pet vaccination, and rapid administration of immunoglobulin to people exposed to bats

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