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Discovery of First Two Rabid Bats in Illinois Prompt Worry of Rabid Animal Attacks

A young bat perching on a rock

The first two rabid bats of 2024 were recently discovered in the state, and officials are warning people to beware of wild animals that may carry rabies.

The two bats were found in Cook and Will county, and the Illinois Department of Public Health says the warm weather will make rabid animals far more active.

“Rabies is a fatal but preventable disease,” said IDPH Director Dr. Sameer Vohra. “It is important that Illinois residents know how to prevent rabies exposure to protect themselves and their loved ones. Bats are the most common carriers of the rabies virus in Illinois but not the only carrier. Illinois residents should stay away from bats and any wild, unfamiliar, or stray animal, as well as any animal that appears to be sick. Groups of bats can move into people’s homes and that underscores the importance of knowing the ways of keeping bats out of your home.

Public health officials stress that if a bat is found inside a home, it is important to try and cover it with a container and contact animal control so it can be tested for rabies.

While you need to be careful around wild animals, you also need to take precautions with the animals closest to you. IDPH is reminding the public to make sure that rabies vaccinations are up to date for pets and any valuable livestock and horses. If a pet is exposed to a high-risk wild animal – such as a bat, skunk, raccoon, fox or coyote – pet owners should immediately contact a veterinarian for advice.

Caution should always be taken for your pets, but you also need to keep your own safety in mind. If you are bitten by any animal, you should seek immediate medical attention. Animals with rabies may not exhibit any outward symptoms such as anger, but they are still very contagious.

There are some warning signs that a pet or rabid animal may be rabid. Changes in any animal’s normal behavior can be early signs of rabies. A bat that is active during the day, found on the ground, or is unable to fly is more likely than others to be rabid. IDPH warns that rabid bats are often easily approached but should never be handled.

The following tips can help prevent the spread of rabies:

  • 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.
  • 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 learn to reduce the risk of exposures to rabid animals.
  • Maintain homes and other buildings so bats cannot get inside.
  • If a bat is in your home, do not release the bat outdoors until after speaking with animal control or public health officials.
  • After consulting with animal control or public health officials, you may need to capture the bat for rabies testing to determine if you need preventive treatment.

Steps you can take to capture the bat are:

  • When the bat lands, approach it slowly, while wearing gloves, and place a box or coffee can over it.
  • Slide a piece of cardboard under the container to trap the bat inside.
  • Tape the cardboard to the container securely, and punch small holes in the cardboard, allowing the bat to breathe.

For more information about rabies and keeping bats out of your home, visit the IDPH website.

Ethan Holder is a student contributor for WSIU Public Broadcasting located at Southern Illinois University, Carbondale. Contact WSIU Radio at 618-453-6101 or email wsiunews@wsiu.org
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