Last week the Avian and Exotic Animal Clinic took in a sick Brown bat found by a local family. The bat did not survive, and was sent to the Indiana State Department of Health for testing. Unfortunately the bat was positive for rabies virus. The family and everyone exposed to the bat will now need treatment for rabies exposure. This episode emphasizes the fact that while rare, rabies is present in Indiana and is a potential danger to anyone handling wildlife, especially bats, skunks, raccoons, and foxes. While AEAC will accept injured and orphaned wildlife, we urge the public to contact Animal Control or local law enforcement, and do not handle potential rabies carriers, especially bats. “Bats are the most important rabies carriers in the state of Indiana,” said Dr. Jen Brown, State Public Health Veterinarian at the Indiana State Department of Health. “It is best not to handle live bats. Anyone who has had possible contact with a bat should call the local health department for advice on whether to receive rabies shots. If a possible exposure has occurred, then the bat should be safely collected so that it can be tested for rabies.”
It's interesting to note that in the US, we are actually fortunate when it comes to rabies exposure. According to the World Health Organization, tens of thousands people die of rabies each year, mostly in Asia (especially India) and Africa. The victims are mostly children, and the source is overwhelmingly unvaccinated dogs. Routine vaccination of pets in the US is an amazing success story, and owners should be congratulated and encouraged to keep up our defenses against this terrible disease.
For more information on India's rabies crisis, go here: http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20150915-indias-rabid-dog-problem-is-running-the-country-ragged