KALISPELL - A bat that had human contact recently tested positive for rabies in Flathead County.
The Flathead City-County Health Department (FCCHD) reports this is the first animal that has tested positive for rabies in Flathead County this year.
Health officials note that not all bats carry rabies, but in order to know for certain, the animal must be available for testing. According to a news release, if a bat has had animal or human contact, FCCHD will cover the cost of the rabies testing.
FCCHD notes that bats are of particular concern because a bat bite may not be noticeable. Additionally, if a bat is found in an area where contact may have occurred it should be tested for rabies.
“Unfortunately, this year we have investigated several interactions in which the bats are unavailable for testing. In these cases, we have had to recommend postexposure prophylaxis,” said FCCHD Health Officer Jen Rankosky.
“We urge residents to be cautious around bats. If you or your pet has had direct contact with a bat, please contact the Health Department to ensure proper handling and testing,” Rankosky continued.
Instructions on how to safely capture a bat for testing are available at https://flathead.mt.gov/department-directory/health. People can contact all FCCHD at 406-751-8117 to discuss potential rabies exposure and proper procedures.
FCCHD reminds everyone of the following rabies prevention tips:
- Do not feed or handle wild animals, especially bats. Teach children never to touch wild animals or handle bats, even dead ones. Ask children to tell an adult if they see or find a bat.
- Vaccinate your dogs and cats against rabies. Cats are particularly susceptible to rabies exposure due to a higher risk of interaction with wild animals. All dogs and cats are required to have a current rabies certificate in Flathead County.
- Bat-proof your house. Place screens on all windows, doors and chimneys to prevent bats from entering. Prevent bats from roosting in attics or buildings by covering outside entry points. However, to avoid trapping any young bats who will die or try to make their way into your rooms, seal the openings permanently after August or in the fall after the bats have left for the season.
- Watch for abnormal wild animal behavior. Most wild animals avoid humans and seeing skunks and bats during the daytime is rare. If you see an animal acting strangely, leave it alone and contact law enforcement or animal control if you think it may pose a danger.