Rabies incident prompts warning about bats

Health authorities have advised the public to be alert to the possible presence of bats after another one of the animals was discovered with rabies in Pierce County.
The Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department reported last week that a bat flew into a home in Gig Harbor on Aug. 22. It was trapped by the residents and handed over to state health officials, who tested it and confirmed that it had rabies.
It was the second bat to test positive for rabies in Pierce County this year, according to the Health Department.
No bites by the bats or any others have been reported. In the Gig Harbor incident, however, residents of the home received rabies vaccines as a precaution, officials said.
This is the time of year when people countywide should be aware of the possibility of run-ins with bats, which like other animals can spread rabies  through their bites, officials noted.
Rabies is a viral disease spread by infected animals. The infection rapidly destroys the brain and nervous system and is almost always fatal.
Officials say widespread vaccination of pets and domestic animals has resulted in very few cases of human rabies in the U.S.
Nevertheless, “during the summer months, encounters between people and bats are more frequent, so residents should take steps to protect themselves and their families,” said Nigel Turner, director of the Health Department's communicable disease division.
On June 6, the Health Department received confirmation of the first rabid bat in Pierce County this year. In that case, the bat bit a man who was working outdoors. He received treatment "and is fine," a department spoksman said.
As of Aug. 28, the state Department of Health recorded 15 positive tests for rabid bats this year. In 2016, Pierce County had one of the 20 positive tests that were reported statewide.
During the summer, bats try to find refuge from the heat by entering homes or buildings Officials advise the following if you encounter a bat indoors:
• Close windows and doors, turn on lights and wait for the bat to land. Call the Health Department at 253-798-6410 for help captureing the bat dead or alive for testing.
• If instructed to capture the bat, wear heavy leather or thick rubber gloves. Never handle a bat with bare hands. Place a container like a food storage dish over the bat, then slide the lid under the container and tape the top. Punch small air holes in the lid of the container using a nail or small screwdriver. Finally, place the bat in a cool area away from children.
• To test a bat for rabies, it may need to be alive. If that’s not an option, try to make sure the bat’s head isn't damaged, because its brain stem is needed for testing.


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