Nebraskans are being reminded to avoid bats.
Nebraska Health and Human Services Epidemiologist Dr. Tom Safranek says bats become very active this time of year, increasing the possibility of humans being exposed to rabies.
“We’re seeing large number of bats in the area right now and they’re seeking warmer places and it brings humans into contact with bats more than is ordinarily the case.” Safranek tells Nebraska Radio Network affiliate KLIN. “We’ve seen rabies in these bat populations. It’s a definite concern.”
Safranek says that in addition to bats, other wildlife such as skunks, foxes, coyotes and raccoons can also have rabies and transmit it to people.
He advises to stay clear of all wildlife.
The Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services reports many of the bats carry rabies.
Safranek cautions to seek medical attention immediately if bitten.
“A lot of times you get bit by a bat you’re going to know it. They’re really like a rodent with wings,” according to Safranek. “Sometimes those bat bites are imperceptible. We worry about people who may have gotten bit at night or if you have a young infant who may not be able to communicate the fact that a bite has occurred.”
According to DHHS, 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.
DHHS has issued the following tips:
Keep vaccinations of pets up-to-date.
Take your pet to the veterinary if it is bitten by a wild animal or exposed to a bat.
Call animal control to get rid of any strays.
While no human cases of rabies have occurred in Nebraska since the 1920s, there have been confirmed cases in animals, according to DHHS:
2015 – 26 animals tested positive for rabies so far (15 bats, 7 skunks, 2 cattle, 1 dog, and 1 cat)
2014 – 21 cases (10 bats, 7 skunks, and 4 cattle)
2013 – 33 cases (14 skunks, 7 cattle, 6 bats, 3 cats, 1 dog, 1 horse, and 1 llama)
2012 – 59 cases
2011 – 35 cases
2010 – 53 cases
2009 – 90 cases
For more stats on rabies in Nebraska, click here.
For help in bat-proofing your home, click here.
General information about rabies can be found by clicking here.
Jane Monnich, KLIN, contributed to this story.