(COLDWATER) – The Branch-Hillsdale-St. Joseph Community Health Agency has seen an increase in calls and requests for rabies testing.
CHA officials say this is due to bats being found in homes in the tri-county area.
While bats are an important part of a healthy ecosystem and are a natural predator of mosquitoes, they are not the only potential carrier for rabies.
The CHA says any wild or un-vaccinated domestic animal has the potential to carry the rabies virus. The virus lives in the saliva of infected animals. It is usually spread from animal to animal or from animal to human through a bite.
You can take these simple steps to protect yourself and your pets: Never approach or touch any wild animals, especially bats, skunks, and raccoon, or stray animals; Do not feed wild animals. If you store food, pet food, or garbage outside, keep it in a sturdy container with a tight-fitting lid; Install a chimney cap to prevent bats, raccoon and other animals from entering your home; Seal openings around your home such as attics, crawl spaces, or areas under your porch or deck, to prevent animals from living there; Make sure your pets are current on their rabies vaccinations. Contact your Veterinarian for more information; and Contact a wildlife removal service or county animal control agent who may be able to remove or relocate the animal.
If you are bitten or scratched by a bat, a wild animal, unknown dog, or unknown cat, take the following steps right away: Immediately wash the wound well with soap and water; Secure the animal, if you can, taking care to prevent additional bites. If the animal is a pet, get the pet owner’s name, address, and telephone number; Contact your local health department or animal control agency to report the bite and decide what should be done about the animal; If an animal must be killed, do not damage the head as rabies testing is done on the brain; When dealing with a dead animal, wear gloves or use a shovel to move the animal. Put the animal’s body in a heavy-duty plastic bag and place in a protected area away from people and other animals. If an animal must be stored for testing, keep it cold but do not freeze; Do not delay seeking medical advice. Contact your family doctor or visit the nearest emergency room. Rabies can be prevented with prompt treatment.
Rabies can be fatal to humans if left untreated. Post exposure treatment is given to people who are exposed to a potentially rabid animal. Treatment is not necessary if the animal tests negative for rabies.