found in Springfield
public health director issues warning to stay away from bats
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[AUG. 5, 2006]
SPRINGFIELD -- After a rabid bat was recently
found in Springfield, Dr. Eric E. Whitaker, state public health
director, reminded the public on Friday to avoid contact with bats,
which typically become more active in August and September.
"Bats are the primary carrier of rabies in Illinois," Whitaker said.
"It is best never to approach a bat and, if found in a home or
building, people should leave the bat alone and contact an animal
control agency or local public health department for assistance with
So far this year, 16 bats have tested positive for
rabies in Illinois. The Illinois Department of Public Health and
local health departments have responded to numerous calls from
people describing encounters with bats and asking for advice.
"While our natural instinct may be to help or befriend bats or
other animals that appear friendly or are injured, don't do it,"
said Connie Austin, state public health veterinarian. "Stray and
wild animals should be avoided. Children especially should be warned
against petting or trying to assist a wild or unfamiliar animal."
Rabies is an infectious viral disease that affects the nervous
system of humans and other mammals. Humans get rabies after being
bit by an infected animal or if infectious material, such as saliva,
from a rabid animal gets directly into their eyes, nose, mouth or a
wound. Without anti-rabies treatment, rabies is a fatal disease.
Any wild mammal, such as a raccoon, skunk, fox, coyote or bat,
can have rabies and transmit it to humans. The animal does not have
to be foaming at the mouth or be exhibiting other symptoms to have
Changes in the animal's normal behavior, such as difficulty with
walking or just an overall appearance of illness, can be early signs
of rabies. For example, skunks, which normally are nocturnal and
avoid contact with people, may appear friendly or ill and may
approach humans during daylight hours.
A bat that is active during the day, found in a place where bats
are not usually seen (such as in a home or on the lawn), or unable
to fly is more likely than others to be rabid. Such bats are often
easily approached but should never be handled.
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Over the past century, rabies incidence in the country has changed
dramatically. More than 90 percent of all animal cases reported
annually now occur in wildlife, while before 1960, most cases
occurred in domestic animals. There is an average of one to two
cases of rabies in the United States each year, but no human cases
have occurred in Illinois since 1954.
The following tips can help
prevent the spread of rabies:
Be a responsible
pet owner. Keep vaccinations up-to-date for all dogs, cats and
ferrets. This requirement is important not only to keep your
pets from getting rabies, but also to provide a barrier of
protection for you if your animal is bitten by a rabid animal.
Keep pets under
direct supervision so they do not come in contact with wild
animals. If your pet is bitten by a wild animal or exposed to a
bat, seek veterinary assistance for your pet immediately.
Call the local
animal control agency to remove stray animals in your
contact with unfamiliar animals. Do not handle, feed or
unintentionally attract wild animals with open garbage cans or
Never adopt wild
animals or bring them into your home. Do not try to nurse sick
animals to health. Call animal control or an animal rescue
agency for assistance.
never to handle unfamiliar animals, wild or domestic, even if
they appear friendly. "Love your own, leave other animals alone"
is a good principle for children to learn.
Prevent bats from
entering living quarters or occupied spaces in homes, churches,
schools and other similar areas where they might come in contact
with people or pets.
For more information about rabies, check
Department of Public Health news release]