(Update: Homeowner speaks of cat bringing bat into home)
'The whole thing was funny ... then you have a moment where you're fearful'
BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- Southwest Bend resident Colleen Quinn said Thursday she still can't believe a cat brought a dead, rabid bat into her home.
Deschutes County health officials confirmed that the dead bat tested positive for rabies.
“The whole thing was funny -- until the bat did actually test positive for rabies," Quinn said Thursday. "And then you have a moment where you’re fearful-- you think -- my kids could get ill, or I could get ill.”
One of Quinn's cats brought the dead animal into her home on Woods Valley Place back on July 9. She says she didn't even realize it was a bat until she picked it up to throw it away. And Quinn didn't consider the possibility of the bat being rabid until a friend encouraged her to get it tested.
Rabies is transmitted through the bites of an infected animal, and while post-exposure vaccination is effective, the best plan is prevention. Deschutes County Health Services reminded residents to take necessary precautions to protect people and pets from rabies:
- Avoid physical contact with bats – healthy, sick, alive, or dead. Be sure to keep children and pets away from bats.
- Do not hand feed or otherwise handle stray animals and wildlife.
- Vaccinate all dogs, cats and ferrets against rabies. This protects them and provides an immune barrier between humans and wild animals.
"There are two things people can do to protect themselves and their pets from rabies," said Emilio DeBess, public health veterinarian for the Oregon Health Authority. "Never handle bats, and make sure your cats and dogs are up to date on their rabies vaccines."
DeBess added that bats are the No. 1 carrier of rabies in the state, adding that now is peak season.
“We get usually a lot of positive animals during the summertime, starting somewhere in March or April.” DeBess said.
To protect your pet, make sure their rabies vaccinations are up to date. Dogs, cats and ferrets should be vaccinated against rabies at three to six months of age. After initial vaccination, a booster is required in one year, and then every three years after that. Under Oregon law, dogs and cats or ferrets that do not have current vaccinations and are suspected of exposure to rabies must be euthanized or placed under strict quarantine for four months.
Quinn said her cats are currently quarantining at home since they handled the bat.
Bats play an important role in the ecosystem, especially in controlling insects, mostly at night. "If you find a bat during the daylight hours, it is most likely not healthy and should be avoided,” DeBess added. Bats suffering from rabies will normally bite in self-defense, and pose little threat to people who do not handle them.
Rabies is an infectious viral disease that affects the nervous system and is almost always caused by exposure from a rabid animal. Exposure is usually through a bite, but can also occur through scratches and saliva contact with broken skin. It is almost always fatal once symptoms begin.
If a person or pet is bitten by a bat, promptly report it to Deschutes County Environmental Health at (541) 317-3114 and report the bite to your medical provider.
For more information about rabies
Oregon Health Authority: http://public.health.oregon.gov/DiseasesConditions/DiseasesAZ/Pages/disease.aspx?did=41
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: http://www.cdc.gov/rabies/