Salt Lake County bat tests positive for rabies

It is the first confirmed case recorded in Salt Lake County this year.

(Utah Division of Wildlife Resources) A ​​bat in Salt Lake City tested positive for rabies this week, Salt Lake County Department of Health officials announced on Thursday, June 1, 2023.

A bat in Salt Lake City tested positive for rabies this week. This is the first confirmed case Salt Lake County health officials have recorded this year.

According to Nicholas Rupp, spokesman for the Salt Lake County Department of Health, there are an average of about four rabies-positive bats in Salt Lake County each year. However, they usually don’t show up until later in the summer and fall, so this is an earlier find than usual.

Rabies can cause bats to behave strangely, Rupp said. Diseased bats spend more time on the ground and in more populated areas, and may appear weak and unable to fly.

“Bats don’t want to be around humans,” he said. “A thug that allows you to approach it is a sign that the thug is not doing well.”

The health department warned residents to avoid bats, whether they look like they have rabies or not. Utah law protects all bat species and makes it illegal to harm bats in the state.

Pets should also be vaccinated against rabies, Rupp said. They are more likely to come into contact with wildlife than humans, making them more vulnerable.

“They’re mouthing a sick bat because it’s on the ground, or they’re having an argument with a raccoon or something like that,” Rupp said. “This potential is even greater for our pets.”

State law requires dogs, cats and ferrets to be vaccinated against rabies.

If you come into contact with a bat, or if a bat has lived in your home, the Salt Lake County Health Department recommends getting screened for rabies as soon as possible. However, no intervention is required for bats that are outside a home.

If a bat is in an attic where no people live, there’s no need to contact the health department, Rupp said. Instead, call a licensed anti-harassment company and see if they can remove the racket.

Bats are important to Utah’s ecosystem, Rupp said. They begin weaning their young in May and June, making young bats now particularly vulnerable when they leave their mothers. The best thing people could do right now is leave them alone, he said.

“We don’t want people to express their concerns on bats,” he said. “That’s not appropriate. They really are a wonderful species for our environment.”

Rabies is transmitted through saliva, usually through a bite. Symptoms in humans include insomnia, anxiety, confusion, hallucinations, increased drooling, difficulty swallowing and fear of water. Once symptoms appear, rabies is “almost always fatal,” according to the county health department.

Any mammal can contract rabies. The most common carriers are bats, raccoons, skunks and foxes.

Justin Scaccy

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