(KMOV.com) – Spring has arrived and bats are awakening from hibernation. The Saint Louis County Department of Health is cautioning residents to avoid handling the animals since some can carry rabies.
Any county resident who encounters a live or dead bat in their home is urged to call the health department. Residents should not attempt to capture a live bat but should confine it to the room where it was discovered so that animal control officers can collect it for possible rabies testing.
Never release a bat found in a home if it was present while people were sleeping or in the same room with children or adults who, due to health or age, may not be able to describe the extent of their exposure.
“Last year, 359 bats were tested and six were rabid,” said Rebecca Smail, Program Manager of Vector Control and Veterinary Services.
Health officials urge people to be aware of and cautious around wildlife, especially bats, and to avoid direct contact with any animal that is behaving strangely. Children should be taught to stay a safe distance away from any unknown animals.
Smail said people should check with their veterinarians on the immunization status of their pets. Because rabies can be readily passed from wild animals to domestic pets, the first line of defense is to make sure all cats and dogs are properly vaccinated, as required by county ordinance. Once transmitted, the disease of rabies has no cure and is almost always fatal.
Most bats don’t carry rabies and in fact perform a beneficial service by eating large quantities of insects. But if one bat in a colony contracts rabies, chances are it will spread to other members of the colony.