Bat incident heightens rabies concern in St. Croix CountySt. Croix County residents are urged to take precautions against rabies exposure from wild animals such as bats, raccoons, skunks and foxes.
St. Croix County residents are urged to take precautions against rabies exposure from wild animals such as bats, raccoons, skunks and foxes.
Wild animals are more likely than domestic animals to be infected with rabies due to widespread vaccination of domestic animals.
This reminder is in light of a recent incident in Madison where a live bat, unable to fly and not a zoo animal, was found at the Children’s Zoo adventure play area (Big Tree) at the Vilas Zoo. The bat was tested and found to be positive for the rabies virus.
If you were at the playground on Tuesday, May 31, and if your child picked up, touched or handled the bat in any way you need to consult your family doctor ASAP about post exposure rabies shots. Merely being in that area during that timeframe does not present a rabies risk. Since rabies is spread by a bite or scratch, only people who handled the bat should be concerned.
As communities grow and land is developed, the possibility of wild animals and human contact increases.
“Although our natural instinct is to befriend an animal, contact with stray and wild animals should be avoided.” said Ed Thurman, environmental health specialist for St. Croix County DHHS-Public Health.
Pets and livestock can also become infected by rabid wildlife. Thurman advised, “It is important to vaccinate domestic animals against rabies.”
Wisconsin averages 25 positive rabies tests per year, mostly from bats, and about 4 percent of the bats tested in Wisconsin have the rabies virus. In 2007 two dogs tested positive for the rabies virus in St. Croix County.
Rabies is an infectious disease that affects the nervous system of humans and other mammals. People and animals can get rabies from the bite of an infected animal or from saliva of an infected animal if it gets directly into a person’s eyes, nose, mouth or any break in the skin. If bitten by any animal, wash the affected area thoroughly with soap and water and seek medical attention immediately.
Persons who may have been exposed to rabies can receive a series of injections to prevent the development of the disease. Rabies is virtually always fatal once symptoms develop.
Follow these tips to prevent rabies:
• Teach children never to approach unfamiliar animals, wild or domestic, even if they appear friendly.
• Prevent bats from entering homes or spaces where people and pets may be present. Keep screens in good repair and seal small openings.
• If you wake up in a room with a bat present, regardless if there is evidence of a bite or scratch, seek medical advice.
• Wash animal bites thoroughly with soap and water and seek medical attention immediately.
• If bitten by a wild/stray animal, capture or confine the animal if it is possible to do so without incurring further injury. Call the local animal control agency to assist with trapping and testing the animal and also contact local law enforcement.
• Avoid leaving pet food or food scraps outside or on your porch. Doing so will attract potential rabies carriers such as skunks and raccoons.
• Keep vaccinations current for dogs, cats and ferrets.
For more information on rabies go to www.sccwi.us/environmen talhealth or contact Ed Thurman at 715-246-8370.