First rabid bat of season identified

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The Flathead City-County Health Department identified the first rabid bat of the season this week, according to a press release.

The department noted officials have recognized a “significant increase in the number of reported human and domestic animals contact/interactions with bats and skunks.”

Not all bats and skunks carry rabies, but in order to know for certain, the animal thought to have the disease must be available for testing. If a bat or skunk — two animals that can carry rabies — has had animal or human contact, the health department will cover the cost of the rabies testing. According to the press release, the rabid bat had made human contact.

If a bat or skunk is not available for testing and a person or animal has been bitten, scratched or been in direct contact, it is considered a “rabies exposure.” Upon being exposed, appropriate follow-up should be completed, including post-exposure prophylaxis for humans, the press release said.

“Unfortunately, this year we have investigated a lot of interactions in which the bats or skunks are unavailable for testing. In these cases, we have had to recommend post-exposure prophylaxis,” said department Health Officer Hillary Hanson. “We urge residents to be cautious around bats and skunks. If you or your pet has had direct contact with the bat or skunk, please contact the Health Department to ensure proper handling and testing.”

The department offered four rabies prevention tips: do not feed or handle wild animals (especially bats), vaccinate your dogs and cats against the rabies, bat-proof your house and watch for abnormal wild animal behavior.

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