(Photo by Glenn P. Knoblock)
Now that summer is in full swing and a number of bats in the state have tested positive for rabies, the Illinois Department of Public Health is issuing a warning to help raise awareness.
To date, six rabid bats have been found in Will County, the latest of which was discovered in the mouth of a cat in Lockport. Cook County ranks No. 2 with a reported total of five rabid bats.
“People can receive preventive treatment if they are exposed to an animal infected with rabies,” IDPH Director Nirav D. Shah, M.D. said in a statement. “Although most bats are not infected with rabies, it’s important to avoid handling bats, get and keep your pets vaccinated, and make sure your home has no openings where bats can come in.”
While many people associate rabies with bats, only a small percentage of them are afflicted. According to the IDPH, each year anywhere from 1,300 to 1,700 bats suspected of being rabid are submitted for testing annually and only around 3 percent of those tests come back positive.
RELATED: WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT BATS
Signs of an animal having rabies include a general appearance of sickness or a change in the animal's normal behavior patterns.
From the IDPH:
"Bats, like all wild animals, should never be handled. Do not feed, touch, or adopt wild animals or stray dogs or cats. If you find yourself near a bat (in your home or other indoor area) close the door to the room where the bat is and call the local health department. They can help determine if you could have been exposed to rabies and if the bat needs to be tested. If you are bitten by a bat or other animal, you should seek medical attention immediately. The local health department and animal control should also be notified and the animal captured without damaging its head (put a container over it) and only if direct contact with the animal can be avoided."
Officials warn that if a wild animal comes on your property, bring children and pets inside and wait for the animal to leave.
If the animal is acting erratically, contact animal control.
The University of Illinois Extension also offers additional information on bats and what you can do if they are on your property.