Urgent rabies warning for pet owners as disease-carrying bats found across US

State health leaders removed rabid bats from two Illinois homes — while also warning pet owners to be alert for signs of rabies.

The incident comes just weeks after rabies-infected bats were discovered in Michigan. The rabies virus is found in bats in every US state except Hawaii.

State health officials are urging citizens to keep their pets, valuable livestock and horses up to date on rabies vaccinations as they remain alert to strange behavior. Common rabies carriers: Bats, raccoons, skunks, coyotes and foxes.

The discovery of two bats on May 10 that are now confirmed to have rabies has led the IDPH to issue detailed guidelines on how to prevent bats from nesting in homes and other residential properties as the risk of bat activity increases this summer.

State public health officials have successfully removed rabid bats from two Illinois homes in Cook and Will counties — and now warn of more rabid creatures. Above, a big brown bat (Eptesicus fuscus), one of several species found in Illinois and surrounding states

“Swarms of bats can enter people’s homes, highlighting the importance of knowing how to keep bats out,” IDPH Director Dr. Sameer Vohra said.

‘Rabies is a fatal but preventable disease’, stressed Dr Vohra In his statement,

‘It’s important that Illinois residents learn about rabies prevention to protect themselves and their loved ones.’

The IDPH director said if a bat is found inside a home, the first step is to try to cover it with a container, and contact animal control for rabies testing.

The health department recommends wearing protective gloves when approaching the creature and using a box or coffee can to catch the winged mammal.

The state of Illinois is home to several species of bats, including the little brown bat (Myotis lucifugus), which can weigh as little as a few nickels and can easily pass through tight spaces or cracks in doors and windows. Above, a little brown bat in flight

The state of Illinois is home to several species of bats, including the little brown bat (Myotis lucifugus), which can weigh as little as a few nickels and can easily pass through tight spaces or cracks in doors and windows. Above, a little brown bat in flight

Covering chimney openings and ensuring the frames on all entrances, such as doors, windows and vents, are secure will help reduce the risk of rabid bats entering the home, IDPH said in the report. Its ‘Bait Boycott’ Guide,

He recommended that any holes larger than a quarter-inch should be sealed to prevent bats from entering the home.

Officials recommended a new design for a 'one-way valve.' The valve system allows bats to exit a structure they have already entered, but prevents them from re-entering

Officials recommended a new design for a ‘one-way valve.’ The valve system allows bats to exit a structure they have already entered, but prevents them from re-entering

The state is home to several bat species, such as the little brown bat (Myotis lucifugus), which weighs only a few nickels and is able to easily slip through tight cracks in doors and windows.

The IDPH recommended ‘caulk, expandable foam, plywood, mortar, metal flashing, steel wool, or quarter-inch mesh screen or netting’ to seal these holes, but also presented an innovative design for a ‘one-way valve.’

The valve system allows bats to exit a structure they have already infiltrated, but prevents them from re-entering.

Although stereotypes about rabies may lead people to believe that all rabid animals behave aggressively or foam at the mouth, IDPH notes that ‘any change in an animal’s normal behavior may be an early sign of rabies.’

Health officials said if a bat is active during the day, such as if it is found on the ground, or appears unable to fly, it should be treated as if it has rabies.

“If you are bitten by an animal, seek medical help immediately,” the IDPH said in its advisory this week.

“Bite wounds can become infected and preventive treatment should be started early if the animal is at high risk for rabies,” he said.

Where possible, officials advise residents ‘do not kill or release the bat before calling your doctor or local health department to find out if you have been exposed to rabies and need preventive treatment.’

He said the samples captured could help local health authorities decide on the treatment of infected people.

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