Rabies confirmed in bats found in Walworth County homes

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Andrea Anderson | September 11, 2015

ELKHORN—A second bat in Walworth County has tested positive for rabies.

On Sept. 3, the Wisconsin State Lab of Hygiene confirmed a bat found in a Walworth County home had the viral disease, according to a Walworth County Department of Health and Human Services news release.

It is the second bat to test positive for rabies this year in the county, said Jan Ellefsen, health and human services environmental health specialist.

The two bats were found in homes in mid-August and early September, Ellefsen said.
The exact locations, dates and number of people involved would not be released because those details are tied to private health information, Ellefsen said.

The people who encountered the bats were instructed to receive a shot after each positive result came back. It is “unlikely” the people who may have been bitten or scratched are infected, Ellefsen said.

The shot prevents people from acquiring the viral disease, Ellefsen said.

Between 2010 and 2014, 128 bats tested positive for rabies, the release states.

The last rabid bat tested was in 2012, Ellefsen said.

Rabies is a viral disease that is transmitted from infected animals and can be fatal.

There are an average of two to three human rabies cases a year in the United States, the release states.

The virus is primarily contracted by bite but also can be transmitted by a scratch or when an infected animal's saliva comes in contact with an open wound, the release states.

Rabies from bats may be harder to recognize because the scratches or bites often go unnoticed by humans, Ellefsen said.

Ellefsen urges people to not be concerned but be cautious. She encourages people to:

-- Vaccinate their indoor and outdoor animals.

-- Use a fishing net to catch but not kill suspicious bats for testing.

-- Wash any wounds thoroughly with soap.

-- Teach children not to pick up bats or any unfamiliar animal.

People who have caught a bat should immediately contact their local health and human services during normal business hours and a veterinarian outside of business hours to pick up the bat for testing. The bat must be alive, Ellefsen said.

People who have contact with a bat should contact a physician as soon as possible to be evaluated, the release states.

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