Bat Tests Positive for Rabies in Teton County

A bat found in the bedroom of a Teton County residence tested positive for rabies.

The bat was captured and taken to Spring Creek Animal Hospital and subsequently sent to the Wyoming State Veterinary Laboratory (WSVL) for testing. Out of 13 bats tested from Teton County this year, this is the first for which the results were positive for rabies.

The most recent records of rabies-positive animals in Teton County were a fox and a skunk that were tested between 2000 and 2001.

In reference to these cases, State Public Health Veterinarian, Dr. Karl Musgrave, stated, “Most likely these animals were bitten by a rabid bat and contracted rabies.” Statewide this year, the WSVL has found 6 bats and 14 skunks out of the 435 total animals tested to be rabies-positive.

The rabies virus is almost always fatal, but if post-exposure treatment is started as soon as possible, death can be prevented. Rabies is transmitted in the saliva of warm-blooded mammals and can infect humans though bites, scratches or other physical contact that results in a break in a person’s skin or exposure to their mucous membranes.

Bats are a major reservoir of rabies in Wyoming and are a concern because their bites are so small that they may not be noticeable.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends that post-exposure treatment be considered for the following situations:
• waking up in a room in which a bat is present
• an adult witnesses a bat in a room with a previously unattended child, mentally disabled person, or intoxicated individual
• physical contact with or handling a bat even if bite marks are not seen

Teton County Public Health recommends that anyone who experiences one of these situations or direct contact with a bat immediately contact their healthcare provider or Teton County Public Health (307-733-6401) for help and further information.

Any bat that comes in contact with a person should be carefully captured, if possible, so that rabies testing may occur.

Bats can be taken to Spring Creek Animal Hospital (307-733-1606) for testing.

He recommends that individuals who are trying to capture a bat wear suitable gloves and attempt to keep the bat’s skull intact.

Dr. Forman stated, “If the brain does not appear to be intact, this may interfere with our ability to preform proper testing.” It is also important for residents to put the captured or dead bat in the refrigerator to preserve the specimen until it can be dropped off."

Dr. Forman went on to say, “Please do not put the specimen in the freezer as this may also render the brain tissue unsuitable for testing.”

If you are not comfortable capturing a bat found in your home, please call local pest control for assistance.

If you have any questions or concerns please call Spring Creek Animal Hospital or Teton County Public Health.

Bats do not normally pose a serious threat to public health and are extremely important for insect control.

Dr. Musgrave stated, “Typically, less than 1% of bats in nature are affected by rabies at one point in time. Bats that are acting abnormally or come into contact with humans can have a higher rate of rabies (up to 10%).

Across Wyoming, we get an average of 8-10 rabid bats each year.