July 10, 2012
For further information, contact:
Rick Osborn, Public Information Officer, Benton County Board of Commissioners
(541) 766-6082, firstname.lastname@example.org
Bat tests positive for rabies in Benton County
CORVALLIS, Ore. – Officials from Benton County Health Department have confirmed a bat has tested positive for rabies last week. This year in Oregon five animals – all bats – have tested positive for rabies, including the one in Benton County.
On July 6 Benton County Environmental Health was informed that a resident living southwest of Corvallis reported that their unvaccinated dog had been bitten on the mouth by a bat that later tested positive for rabies.
According to Benton County Environmental Health Division Director Bill Emminger, rabies is endemic in the bat population. Bats help control insect populations, including mosquitoes, but they are the primary reservoir of rabies in wild animals.
“All pet owners should make certain their dogs and cats are vaccinated against rabies. When our pets are protected from rabies, it provides a buffer zone of immune animals between humans and rabid wild animals such as bats,” Emminger said. “In this case the family had two options, either to home quarantine for six months or to euthanize their pet. Because of a pre-existing medical condition with their dog the family made the difficult choice to have their pet euthanized.”
Residents and veterinarians should be aware that other animals could be exposed to the rabies virus and should be alert to potential signs of the disease. Rabies is a viral disease that affects the nervous system of humans and mammals. It is almost 100 percent fatal once symptoms begin. The virus is carried in the saliva of an infected animal; transmission can occur when that animal bites, or in rare instances, scratches another. Residents should not handle bats with bare hands and should keep their pets’ rabies immunization up to date. If bitten by a bat, a person immediately should clean the bite wound thoroughly with soap and water and seek medical attention. If possible, the bat should be captured and the event reported to the county Health Department.
Rabies symptoms in wildlife can include lethargy, walking in circles, loss of muscular coordination, convulsions, irritability or aggressiveness, disorientation, excessive drooling and showing no fear of humans. To report this type of behavior in an animal, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife hotline can be reached at 866-968-2600.
Typically animals acquire rabies by eating or coming into contact with a rabid bat. Few bats in Oregon have rabies and the rabies in other wildlife is even rarer. However, those who know their pet has encountered a bat or has been bitten by a wild animal should contact their veterinarian immediately. If possible, people should stay away from bats and not handle them. To keep pets and humans safe, the Benton County Health Department recommends the following steps:
* Vaccinate pets (dogs and cats) against rabies;
* Watch wildlife from a distance, and don’t approach or attempt to handle wild animals;
* Do not feed wild animals;
* Keep garbage in secure containers and away from wildlife;
* Feed pets indoors; and
* Seal openings in attics, basements, porches, sheds and screen chimneys that might provide access to bats and other wildlife.
For more information, those interested can call Benton County Environmental Health at 541-766-6841. For a statewide map showing the distribution of rabies in bats for 2012, those interested can go online to http://public.health.oregon.gov/DiseasesConditions/DiseasesAZ/rabies/Documents/rabiesmap12.pdf.