Island County warns: Watch out for bats

The Island County Health Department is warning people on Whidbey Island to steer clear of bats.

During the summer months, people and their pets are more likely to encounter bats and may be exposed to rabies. Avoiding contact with bats and vaccinating pets are the best ways to protect people from getting the disease.

"Rabies is a viral disease that attacks the central nervous system in mammals," said Island County Chief Medical Officer Dr. Roger Case.

"People exposed to a rabid animal must receive anti-rabies vaccines to prevent the disease. The virus can be transmitted after a bite from an infected animal. It can also be spread to open wounds or mucous membranes by an infected animal’s saliva."

An adult or child handling a bat could become infected. Any bat that is found on the ground, has been caught by a pet or is found in the house could have rabies.

Bats can be found throughout South Whidbey; they are not aggressive animals and most of them don’t have rabies. Those seen flying at dusk and feeding on insects are usually healthy and will avoid contact with people.

However, any bat that is flying during the day or appears sick and unable to fly is more likely to be rabid.

If a bat is found in the house, close the doors and windows to the room. Wear leather or other thick gloves and capture the bat in a can or box without touching it. Seal the container and report to the Island County Health Department at 360-679-7350.

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