Within the last three weeks, the Kern County Department of Public Health has had a number of bats and other animals submitted for testing that have tested positive for rabies.
Some of this rabies positive wildlife was found in residential areas which presents an elevated concern of rabies exposure to humans, the department reported.
“Human rabies is a very rare condition in the United States,” states Claudia Jonah, MD, Health Officer for Kern County. “Yet by being aware of the facts surrounding rabies and bats, our community can help protect itself.”
Rabies is an infectious viral disease affecting the nervous system of humans and other mammals. Any warm-blooded animal can be infected; however, infections are most common in bats, skunks, foxes, coyotes, and raccoons. Domestic animals usually become infected through contact with an infected wild animal, although unvaccinated and infected domestic animals can pass the infection as well.
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. Additionally, vaccinating your dogs and/or cats, can help protect them against exposure.
Bats may enter openings that are as small as 3/8 of an inch, it is best to walk around your home’s perimeter checking for any openings. If you should find a bat in your home, do not approach or handle it. Depending on where you live, contact either the city or county Animal Control Department for removal of the bat.
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, and immediately seek medical evaluation for possible treatment. The Kern County Public Health Department can test the animal to determine if it has rabies, provide test results and recommended medical treatment to your medical provider. Prompt evaluation for and treatment of confirmed exposure to rabies can be life-saving. If not promptly treated, rabies infection can be fatal.