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A bat in Cascade County tested positive for rabies

Bat observations in Montana are more frequent in autumn
Posted at 6:53 AM, Jul 03, 2024

GREAT FALLS — The Cascade City-County Health Department (CCHD) confirmed last week that a bat in Cascade County has tested positive for rabies. The agency released the information on Tuesday, July 2, 2024.

Cascade County’s last confirmed rabid animal, also a bat, was identified in August 2023.

We have asked the CCHD for information about where the bat was found in Cascade County, and how it was recovered for testing. If we get a response, we will provide an update.

The CCHD says that rabies is fatal if not treated, but prompt treatment before the onset of symptoms is nearly 100% successful. The last identified human death from rabies in Montana occurred in 1997.

Preventative treatment for rabies is nearly 100% successful; the last identified human death in Montana happened in 1997.

If you get bitten or scratched by an animal:

  • Immediately wash the affected area thoroughly with soap and warm water, and also use a viricidal agent such as iodine.
  • Seek medical attention and report the exposure immediately.

The CCHD provided this information to prevent and appropriately respond to a rabies exposure:

  • Do not feed or handle wild animals, especially bats. Bats and skunks are the most likely carriers of the rabies virus in Montana and should be avoided. Bats are especially concerning because their teeth are so small that a bite may not be noticeable, and people are sometimes bitten in their sleep without knowing it.
  • Avoid animal bites from domestic animals. Do not approach unfamiliar animals, and always request the owner’s permission before petting an animal.
  • Do not attempt to help a sick or injured wild animal.
  • Vaccinate dogs and cats against rabies. Rabies vaccinations are required by law, and all dogs and cats should have a current rabies certificate. Cats are especially susceptible to rabies.
  • Bat-proof your house. Put screens on all windows, doors, and chimneys to prevent bat entry. Visit our website for information on safely catching a bat in your home.
  • Know what to do if there’s a bite. If someone is bitten by a domestic dog, cat, or ferret, the animal can be observed for signs of rabies, almost always avoiding the need for treatment. If an animal cannot be located, observed, or tested, a person may need to undergo a series of immunizations to prevent rabies. If you are bitten, call a healthcare provider or CCHD immediately.

There are several species of bat that call Montana home, including: Big Brown Bat (Eptesicus fuscus); Little Brown Myotis (Myotis lucifugus); Silver-haired Bat (Lasionycteris noctivagans); and Townsend’s Big-eared Bat (Corynorhinus townsendii).