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After a bat tested positive for the presence of rabies in Racine County, health officials want the public vigilant because animals transfer the virus to humans.

The bat was caught and taken to a lab for testing. Rabies — if untreated — is “almost always fatal,” according to a joint press release by the City of Racine and Central Racine County health departments.

No known human or animal exposures have occurred. But health officials want the public to be aware that skunks, foxes, raccoons, livestock, dogs and cats can carry rabies. Because people work and play outdoors more often in the summer months, there is a potential for more animal bites. With the increased risk, treatment for possible rabies exposure is higher in the summer.

How People Can Get Rabies

The virus is spread from animal to human through an animal’s saliva when someone is bitten, scratched or they come in contact with animal saliva when a person has broken skin. If this happens, clean the would with soap and water. Then contact your local health department and a doctor immediately.

“If the offending animal can be safely captured without incurring further injury, it is generally advisable to do so,” the press release reads. “And then keep it contained until the local public health department can be consulted.”

If a bat is found in a room with a person who is asleep, very young or has an incapacitating mental illness, report the incident to local public health officials and a physician. The reason being, people who are vulnerable may not report scratches. An animal needs to be tested to determine if it has rabies.

Bats that are active during the daytime, found in an unusual place (in a home or on the lawn) or are unable to fly — are more likely to be rabid. Along the same line, an animal that seems to be acting abnormal should not be approached or handled, accord to the press release.

Reduce Rabies Exposure

  • Keep rabies vaccinations current on dogs, cats, ferrets, and livestock.
  • Spay and neuter dogs and cats to keep the population down.
  • Stay away from wild animals.
  • Don’t keep exotic or wild animals as pets.
  • Keep screens in good repair by closing up small openings that would allow bats to enter.

For more information, call or visit your health department website: City of Racine Health Department or the Central Racine County Health Department

Denise Lockwood has an extensive background in traditional and non-traditional media. She has written for, the Milwaukee Business Journal, Milwaukee Magazine and the Kenosha News.