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Rabies exposure increases in spring

| April 30, 2017 2:58 PM

State and local public health officials are reminding Montanans to be aware of the risk for exposure to rabies as spring and summer approaches.

Encounters between humans and wild animals often increase in spring and summer months because of the time spent hiking and engaging in other outdoor activities.

From 2009 to 2015, 11 bats submitted for testing from Lincoln County were positive for rabies.

Rabies is a fatal disease. The rabies virus is carried in the saliva of infected warm-blooded mammals and is usually transmitted to people and other animals through a bite. Bats are a great concern in Montana because a bite may not be noticeable.

If someone is bitten by a domestic dog, cat or ferret, the animal can be observed for signs of rabies, almost always avoiding the need for treatment. If an animal cannot be located, observed or tested, a person may need to undergo a series of shots to prevent rabies.

If you or your family may have been exposed to a bat please call Lincoln County Public Health (406-283-2465) to discuss possible exposure. “People can be exposed to a bat and not even know it,” said Jennifer McCully, Public Health Manager for Lincoln County Public Health (LCPH), “If a person has physical contact with a bat or a bat is found in an area where contact may have occurred, such as a bedroom, the bat should be tested for rabies if possible.”

LCPH would like to remind 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.

Avoid animal bites from domestic animals. Teach children to never approach an animal at large, and to always ask an owner’s permission prior to petting an animal. Another common source of bite exposures are adults attempting to rescue a feral animal. Sick or injured animals that have not been socialized can become aggressive when someone attempts to handle them.

Vaccinate dogs and cats against rabies. Cats are especially susceptible to rabies exposure as a result of more contact with wild animals than dogs. All dogs and cats should have a current rabies certificate.

For additional information call us at 406-283-2442.

Jennifer McCully, MPH

Lincoln County Public Health