Bats & Rabies
What is Rabies? Rabies is a viral disease affecting the brain. Fortunately, only a few human cases are reported in the United States (average one per year), most of which are acquired in foreign countries.
Who gets Rabies? All mammals, including man, are susceptible to rabies.
How is Rabies spread? It is transmitted from infected mammals to man and is usually fatal once symptoms appear. Transmission usually occurs by exposure to infected saliva through a bite; saliva contacts to scratches or broken skin, eyes, mouth, or nose are also possible routes.
What are the symptoms of Rabies? Early symptoms include irritability, headache, fever and sometimes itching or pain at the site of exposure. The disease eventually progresses to paralysis, spasms of the throat muscles, convulsions, delirium and death.
How soon after exposure do symptoms appear? The incubation period is variable. It can be as short as nine days, however, the usual incubation period is 20 to 90 days. It is shorter when the bite is on the head (25-48 days) than when on an extremity (46-78 days).
What can be done to prevent the spread of Rabies?
Who should get the Rabies Vaccine? Persons bitten by laboratory proven rabid animals should receive rabies vaccine. Occasionally, persons bitten by dogs and cats need vaccination. Persons bitten by skunks, foxes and other wild animals may also be vaccinated. Special consideration must be given to human exposure to a bat in your house. If the bat could have been in your bedroom or your children's bedroom while you all were sleeping (bat exposure may not be detectable), the bat must be sent in for testing.
A negative test result will let you know, no treatment is needed. If the bat cannot be found, vaccine treatment is needed. (The disease has also been found in deer, livestock, and in large rodents such as woodchucks). Consult your physician or local health department for advice in each circumstance. Persons who work with many animals (veterinarians, animal wardens, etc.) should be immunized against rabies when they enter their profession.
Who does note need the Rabies Vaccine? Persons bitten by mice, rats, squirrels and immunized dogs and cats almost never need rabies vaccine. (Birds, fish, insects, lizards, snakes and turtles never get rabies). Consult your physician or local health department for advice in each circumstance.
What should be done if you think you've been bitten by a rabid animal? Wash the wound thoroughly with soap and water and seek medical attention immediately. The local health department or an animal control official also should be notified immediately. The animal should be captured without damaging its head and only if direct contact with the animal can be avoided. If an apparently healthy domestic dog, cat, or ferret bites a human, it must be captured, confined and professionally observed for 10 days following the bite.
If the animal remains healthy during this period, it would not have transmitted rabies at the time of the bite. There is no reliable observation period established for non-domestic animals. If a person is bitten by a non-domestic animal and it is available for testing, testing should be done immediately. All animal bites should be reported to a local animal control office. If an animal suspected of having rabies cannot be observed or tested, or if it tests positive for rabies, treatment of the individual with rabies immune globulin and the vaccine series must begin immediately. Vaccine injections are given in the arm or hip.
What should be done if you find a bat in your house? The following questions should be asked to determine if human exposure has or may have occurred:
If, from the questions above, you believe human exposure occurred, contact your vet or wildlife specialist for assistance on shipping the specimen to a state lab. Also contact your doctor and our health department as soon as possible. If capture took place at night or on a week-end, or if you have problems contacting any of the above, place container holding live bat in a cool place. If bat appears dead place container holding bat in a refrigerator.
The following is recommended for capturing a bat in your home:
In addition to bats, skunks are another primary reservoir of rabies virus in Illinois. The last skunks identified with rabies in Illinois occurred in 2005 when six specimens submitted tested positive for rabies. Local animal control officials in Illinois submit skunk specimens for rabies testing to provide continuing surveillance for the virus. The information obtained from this testing can be used to determine the potential prevalence of the rabies virus in an area. Avoiding skunks and other wild animals, especially those who may have signs suggesting rabies (lack of fear of humans, aggressive behavior, salivation, staggering, paralysis/muscle tremors, being found in places unusual for a skunk/wild animal) is another method to avoid being infected by the rabies virus.
In Illinois, the last rabid cat was identified in 1996, and the last rabid dog identified in 1994. Therefore, there is low-risk for rabies to be presented by dogs and cats in Illinois due to the time since the last identification of a rabid dog or cat. This does not mean that all dogs and cats in Illinois do not carry rabies. A reason for the long time period since a dog or cat has been identified with rabies in Illinois is that many pet owners have their animals vaccinated for rabies on a regular basis to prevent infection. Vaccinating your pets is a simple and effective way to help prevent the spread of rabies. It also helps to prevent more extensive costs that can be associated with quarantine measures that may need to take place if your pet does not have a current rabies vaccination and bites another person.
Important Local Numbers:
Robinson Hospital for Animals
10499 N. State Highway 1
Robinson, IL 62454
James Butler, Wildlife Specialist
US Department of Agriculture
20969 N. 200th Street
Oblong, IL 62449
Crawford County Humane Society
911 E. Wilkin
Robinson, IL 62454