Friday, September 3, 2010

3 more bat attacks in valley

Health officials warn of rabies


By TONY EVANS
Express Staff Writer

Three more people in the Wood River Valley have been vaccinated for rabies during the past week after direct encounters with aggressive bats.

One person was bitten, indicating that the bat probably had rabies. Two more people may have been bitten and were vaccinated as a safety measure.

Rabies can be a fatal disease if left untreated. It can take months for symptoms to appear after a bite.

"Most of the rabies we see in Idaho is from bats," said South Central Public Health District epidemiologist Mary Jensen. "When they have rabies, bats will not act normally. They will be out in the daytime, rather than night or dusk. They may roll around on the ground."

A bat that attacked a fisherman in July in the Deer Creek area, northwest of Hailey, tested positive for rabies, making it the first confirmed rabies case of the year in south-central Idaho and the second in the state.

No bats were captured for testing in this week's encounters— one in Bellevue, one in Hailey and one in Ketchum—but vaccinations were ordered nonetheless.

Jensen said people in the Wood River Valley should exercise caution if bats are around, and get checked if they suspect a direct encounter has taken place.

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"Bats' teeth are so small and so fine people don't always know whether or not they have been bitten," she said. "It's important to get checked out by a doctor if you have had direct contact with a bat."

Jensen said bats are beneficial for the environment and should not be targeted due to the rabies threat.

"They eat insects, including mosquitoes that carry West Nile Virus," she said.

A fourth bat encounter this week resulted when a person disturbed a bat while it was sleeping. The bat flew away without touching the person.

Bats live in dark places during the daytime, often clinging to rafters in barns and attics.

"If you see them, just walk away and leave them alone," Jensen said.

For more information or to voice concerns about bats, call the South Central Health District at 208 737-5969.

Tony Evans: tevans@mtexpress.com




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