While warmer weather might be welcoming news for most, don’t forget it means increased chances of encountering bats — and possibly rabies.
The Seattle and King County Public Health Department reported the first rabies-positive bat of 2021 on Monday. According to officials, a Sammamish resident recently had a close call when they found a bat in their yard and attempted to move it with gardening gloves.
“The bat became aggressive and bit the resident multiple times,” the health department said in a news release.
The resident alerted the health department, and the bat tested positive for rabies, officials said. The person received post-exposure treatment to protect them from developing the disease.
Human and bat encounters tend to increase as bats come out of hibernation in the spring. Rabies can be spread through bare skin contact or saliva, public-health officials warn .
Rabies is nearly always fatal once symptoms begin, according to the health department. It is preventable only if treated before symptoms appear.
According to officials, of the 45 bats were tested for rabies in 2020, five were positive.
“Bats with rabies are found in every part of Washington,” Washington State Department of Health epidemiologist Hanna Oltean said.
Pets, including dogs, cats and ferrets, should be vaccinated routinely, and no one should handle wild animals like bats even if they are dead, she said.
What to do about bats and pets
Public health officials say healthy bats — like the ones flying overhead — tend to avoid people.
If someone finds a bat inside a home or on the ground, they are advised to call Seattle and King County Public Health at 206-296-4774 to discuss the situation.
If the bat has had direct contact with a person’s bare skin or a pet, or someone wakes up with a bat in their room, public health officials say the bat must be captured and tested. A medical provider or veterinarian should be contacted immediately.
Officials also say people should use shovels or thick gloves to move dead bats into a box for testing. If the bat is alive and has not come into contact with people or pets, open windows and doors to allow the bat to leave.