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Be safe, never touch a bat
DuPage County – This is the time of year when bats are most active, and the DuPage County health department warns residents never to touch or catch a bat or wild animal, especially in your home.
Rabies is a virus that affects the nervous system of humans and other mammals. People can get rabies after being bitten by an infected animal. Rabies can also be contracted when saliva from a rabid animal goes directly into the eyes, nose, mouth, or wound. Without preventive treatment, rabies is usually a fatal disease.
Bats are the main carriers of rabies in Illinois. You can’t tell if a bat is rabid. The animal does not have to be aggressive or show any other symptoms to have rabies. Any wild mammal, such as a raccoon, skunk, fox, coyote, or bat, can have rabies and transmit it to humans.
Several potential human exposures to rabies have been reported as early as 2022, and preventive treatment has been recommended for 43 residents of DuPage County so far in 2022 by their healthcare provider and/or public health officials. Four bats tested positive for rabies in DuPage County in 2022.
Changes in an animal’s normal behavior, such as difficulty walking or a general appearance of illness, can be early signs of rabies. A bat that is active during the day, found on the ground and unable to fly is more likely to have rabies. Such bats should never be touched or handled.
If you have been bitten or exposed to a bat, seek immediate medical attention. Bat bites may not be felt while sleeping, and special care should be taken when a person wakes up to a bat and also when a bat is found in the room with a previously unattended child, a mentally disabled person, or an intoxicated person. Preventive treatment with rabies immunoglobulin and a vaccine series should begin immediately.
The following tips can help prevent the spread of rabies:
• Be a responsible pet owner. Keep vaccinations up to date for all pets.
• Seek immediate veterinary care if your pet is bitten by a wild animal or exposed to a bat.
• Call the local police or animal shelter to remove stray animals from your area.
• Do not touch, feed, or attract wild animals with open trash cans or litter.
• Never adopt or bring wild animals into your home. Do not try to make sick animals healthy. Call animal control or an animal shelter for help.
• Never teach children to interact with unfamiliar animals, wild or domestic, even if they seem friendly. “Love yourself, leave other animals alone” is a good principle for children to learn to reduce the risk of exposure to rabid animals.
• Maintain houses and other buildings to prevent bats from entering. Additional information on “Bats and Bats Exclusion” is available at https://dph.illinois.gov/topics-services/environmental-health-protection/structural-pest-control/bats-exclusion.html
• If there is a bat in your home, do not kill or release the bat outside until you speak with animal control and public health officials to help determine if you, your family members, or pets may have been exposed to rabies and need preventive treatment to have. If you are able to do this without putting yourself at risk of physical contact or getting bitten, try covering the bat with a large pitcher or bucket and closing the door to the room. If the bat is available for testing and the test results are negative, no preventive treatment is needed.
All animal bites to humans occurring in DuPage County must be reported to DuPage County Animal Services at (630) 407-2800; fax reports to (630) 407-2801. All potential exposures to rabies in humans should be reported to the DuPage County Health Department at (630) 221-7553 or after hours at (630) 682-7400.