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Bat in Cascade County tests positive for rabies

Posted at 4:55 PM, Aug 18, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-19 13:17:21-04

The Cascade City-County Health Department in Great Falls says that on August 14th, a bat in Cascade County tested positive for rabies.

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

The CCHD said in a news release that Cascade County’s last rabid animal, also a bat, was identified in 2016. Public health officials urge people to be aware of the risk for exposure to rabies, particularly in the summer. The increased time spent hiking or in other outdoor activities increases the risk of encounters between humans and wild animals.

Rabies is a fatal disease. The rabies virus is carried in the saliva of infected warm-blooded mammals and is usually transmitted to people and other animals through a bite. Human rabies deaths in the US are rare, according to the CDC, and average approximately one to two deaths per year since the 1990’s. Preventative treatment for rabies is nearly 100% successful; the last identified human death in Montana occurred in 1997.

(UPDATE) The Great Falls Police Department said on Facebook that Animal Control Officer Staigmiller retrieved the bat. According to the GFPD, a pet owner called for help when they saw their dog with the bat in its mouth in the backyard. It is unclear if the dog found the bat inside the house or in the yard. Luckily these pet owners keep their dog's vaccinations up to date and the canine only needed a booster, as a precaution. If you find a bat inside a structure, or near humans or pets outside, call to have an ACO check it out. 406-727-7688 X5

Did you know...🦇 Only about 6% of bats carry rabies🦇 Bats can live more than 30 years🦇 Bats can fly up to 60 mph🦇 Bats can find food in total darkness🦇 Bats usually have only one pup per year🦇 Bats can eat up to 1,200 mosquitoes per hour

The CCHD says that rabies is preventable, and provided the following information:

  • 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 completely avoided. Bats are especially concerning because their teeth are so small that a bite may not be noticeable.
  • Avoid animal bites from domestic animals. Never approach an animal at large, and always ask the owner’s permission before petting an animal. Another common source of bite exposures is attempting to help a sick or injured wild animal.
  • Vaccinate dogs and cats against rabies. Cats are especially susceptible to rabies, and all dogs & cats should have a current rabies certificate. If pets have not been vaccinated and are potentially exposed to rabies, they could be put down.
  • Bat-proof your house. Bats must not be allowed in living areas of your home. Put screens on all windows, doors, and chimneys to prevent bat entry. If you do catch a bat, try to catch it to get it tested for rabies as soon as possible. Do not damage the head of the bat, because the brain is needed for the rabies test.
  • 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 shots to prevent rabies. If you are bitten, call a health provider or CCHD immediately.