Avoid Contact With Bats, Long Beach Health Department Advises

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protect your family from rabid batsThe Long Beach Department of Health and Human Services (Health Department) is cautioning residents to avoid handling bats or other wildlife. An increasing number of bats found throughout Los Angeles County have tested positive for rabies, and in Long Beach, a bat found along the bike path in Heartwell Park on Sunday, August 21, 2011, has now been found to have tested positive for rabies. The person who found the bat handled the situation correctly; he made no attempt to pick up or capture the animal, and immediately called Long Beach Animal Care Services (ACS) officials to remove the bat. The bat was taken by ACS officers to the Health Department Public Health Laboratory for testing. No Long Beach residents were exposed.

Rabies is a virus that causes a severe brain infection in mammals and humans that is nearly 100% fatal once symptoms appear. Infection, however, can be effectively prevented with prompt medical treatment. Any mammal can be infected with rabies; in California, the disease is most commonly found in bats, skunks, and foxes. Humans can become infected through bites from an infected animal, or through contact with the saliva of an infected animal.

Signs of rabies in bats include: activity during the daytime (bats are usually active only at night), being present in a place not usually seen (such as a home, playground, or anywhere on the ground), and an inability to fly. Direct contact with any bat should be avoided, and if a bat displaying the above behavior is found, notify Animal Care Services at (562) 570-7387 to retrieve the animal for testing. If a bat is found in your home, place a box or container over it and notify Animal Care Services immediately. In situations in which a bat is physically present and you cannot reasonably rule out having been bitten or exposed (bat bites can go undetected because their teeth are very small and do not leave easily recognizable wounds), seek medical attention immediately. The Health Department is providing additional tips to prevent risk of exposure to rabies:

  1. Do not handle or attempt to “rescue” a sick bat or other wildlife. Contact Long Beach Animal Care Services immediately.
  2. Teach children to never touch unfamiliar animals, wild or domestic, even if they seem friendly;
  3. Wash any wound from an animal thoroughly with soap and water; seek medical attention immediately;
  4. Prevent bats from entering homes, schools, churches and other similar areas where they might contact people and pets. For advice on “bat-proofing” your home, contact Animal Care Services at the above telephone number;
  5. Be a responsible pet owner by keeping rabies vaccinations current for all pets (both cats and dogs); unvaccinated pets that come into contact with a bat may need to be euthanized or quarantined for up to six months; and,
  6. Contact Animal Care Services about any sick or injured stray animal or for information on controlling nuisance wildlife.

For more information on bats and rabies, call Long Beach Animal Care Services at 562-570-7387 or visit www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dvrd/rabies.

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