LINCOLN—A bat found in Louisville tested positive for rabies last month, according to data compiled by the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services.
It was one of 15 animals, mostly bats, that have tested positive with this potentially deadly virus this year across Nebraska, and state health officials are urging the public to be extra careful in avoiding rabies exposure because late summer is prime time for bat activity.
There was no exposure of that rabid bat to humans or pets in Louisville, according to the department. The bat tested positive for rabies on Aug. 6.
Of the 15 animals that have tested positive, 12 have been bats, according to the department.
Since June, three bats found in Omaha have tested positive for rabies with two humans exposed, while a bat found in Bellevue tested positive on July 24 with a human exposed.
“Bats are responsible for carrying much of the rabies virus in Nebraska,” said Dr. Bryan Buss, state veterinarian for the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services. “We’re well into the peak time of the year for bat activity. People should be cautious around bats and other wild animals, like skunks, which is another common rabies carrier.”
In addition to bats and skunks, other wildlife such as foxes, coyotes and raccoons can have rabies and transmit it to people, according to Buss. Rabies is caused by a virus that affects the nervous system and is transmitted by the bite of an infected animal or if saliva from a rabid animal gets directly into an open wound or a person’s eyes, nose or mouth. Rabies is generally fatal without preventive treatment.
To help prevent the spread of rabies state officials are urging the public to follow these tips:
Be a responsible animal owner. Keep vaccinations up-to-date for all dogs, cats, ferrets and other animals you own.
Seek immediate veterinary assistance for your pet if it’s bitten by a wild animal or exposed to a bat.
Call your local animal control agency about removing stray animals in your neighborhood.
Do not touch, feed, or unintentionally attract wild animals with open garbage cans or litter.
Never adopt wild animals or bring them into your home. Do not try to nurse sick, wild animals to health. Call animal control or an animal rescue agency for assistance.
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Teach children never to handle unfamiliar animals, wild or domestic, even if they appear friendly. “Love your own, leave other animals alone” is a good principle for children to reduce the risk of contact with rabid animals.
Maintain homes and other buildings so bats can’t get inside.
If a bat is in your house, don’t let it outside until you talk to animal control or public health officials.
What to do if you think you’ve had direct contact with a bat:
If you have been bitten or wake up and find a bat in your room, you should try to safely capture the bat and have it tested. The same precautions should be used if you see a bat in a room with an unattended child.
If you or a family member has been in close proximity to, had direct contact with or been bitten by a bat, consult your doctor or local health department for assistance to determine if you might have been exposed to rabies and need preventive treatment.
People might know when they’ve been bitten by a bat but its small teeth can make a bite mark difficult to find. It’s better to be safe than sorry. Try to safely capture the bat or call animal control and have the bat tested.
Recent rabies cases in Nebraska
2019 – 15 positive cases to date (12 bats and 3 skunks)
2018 – 22 cases (17 bats, 2 skunks, 1 cat, 1 horse and 1 bovine)
2017 – 19 cases (10 bats, 7 skunks and 2 cats)
2016 – 19 cases (14 bats, 4 skunks and 1 bovine)
No human cases of rabies have occurred among Nebraskans since the 1920s.