Why Should Residents in Some Areas Beware of Bats

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The Kern County Department of Public Health is reminding the public that bat season is fully underway, and residents should avoid making contact with these flying creatures or risk harm to their personal health.

This year, bats from three areas of Bakersfield have tested positive for rabies, raising concern by public health officials for the potential human exposure to rabies from animals that are naturally prevalent in the area.

Bats coming into contact with people or into homes have been tested from across the County of Kern. It is important for the community to know that there have been positive results on three bats that were found in the following zip codes in Bakersfield: 93307, 93308, and 93314. These results underscore the necessity for everyone to be alert and cautious when bats are present. Due to encroachment on former bat habitats, there are areas where homes have significant bat infestation. Affected homeowners should take action and contact professional bat exclusion companies to address this issue and prevent exposure.

"Everyone should exercise caution around wild animals acting unusually aggressive or approachable, especially those prone to rabies such as bats," says B.A. Jinadu, MD, M.P.H., Director of Public Health Services and Health Officer for Kern County. "Yet by being aware of the facts surrounding bats and rabies, our community can help protect itself."

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Facts about Rabies and Bats

Rabies is an infectious viral disease affecting the nervous system of humans and other mammals. Rabies is most common in bats, skunks, foxes, coyotes, and raccoons. Of equal importance when practicing smart prevention, domestic animals such as dogs and cats need to be vaccinated for rabies. While there have not been any rabies cases in dogs or cats in Kern County for more than 50 years they can become infected through contact with an infected wild animal such as bats flying into your yard.

The best way to prevent infection is to avoid contact with potentially infected animals. Parents should advise children not to pet or touch wild animals. Never approach or handle any animal that looks or acts ill, or is behaving strangely. Make sure that you keep bats out of your home. Bats may enter openings that are as small as 3/8 of an inch. In addition, vaccinate your pets against rabies.

If you should find a bat in your home, do not approach or handle it. If there is any reason to suspect that you may have been bitten by a bat, you must seek medical care immediately. If anyone is bitten by an animal, or exposed to its saliva through the eyes, nose, or mouth, wash the site thoroughly with soap and water, then immediately seek medical evaluation for treatment recommendations. Bat teeth are very sharp and small and can cause a bite that you may not be aware of.

In the event you awaken and a bat is in the room, leave the bat alone and contact Animal Control for help. If professional help is not available, attempt to capture the bat by covering with a small box or other container so that it may be tested for rabies. If you have questions or would like information regarding "bat smart" practices contact the Kern County Department of Public Health at 661-868-0306. Prompt evaluation for and treatment of confirmed exposure to rabies can be life-saving. Dr. Boyce Dulan, Director of Disease Control, encourages, "When it comes to living around bats as we do in Kern County, safety is a matter of being 'bat smart' and remember these are wild animals that can transmit disease if infected."

Source: Kern County Department Of Public Health

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