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Apparent uptick in rabies among bats statewide

Video: Bats in the Hovander House

Small brown bats roost in the attic of the Hovander home at the Hovander Homestead Park in Ferndale , Tuesday, Aug. 11, 2015.
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Small brown bats roost in the attic of the Hovander home at the Hovander Homestead Park in Ferndale , Tuesday, Aug. 11, 2015.

No rabid bats have been found in Whatcom County this year, despite an apparent uptick in cases statewide, local health officials said.

A dozen bats were euthanized in Washington state last month because they were infected with rabies, making August 2017 the highest in a decade for rabid bats, according to a story from The Associated Press. The bats were found everywhere from inside homes to along city sidewalks, the AP report said.

Learn more about bats at cdc.gov/rabies/bats/contact/index.html and at wdfw.wa.gov/living/bats.html

Some 21 rabid bats were killed because of positive tests for rabies infection in the first eight months of 2017, according to the AP. That’s up from 20 bats in all of 2016, two of which were in Whatcom County, according to state Department of Health records.

Nine rabid bats were found statewide in 2015, none in Whatcom County.

“Only direct physical contact with an infected animal can expose a person to rabies, like a bite or scratch from a bat,” said Melissa Morin, spokeswoman for the Whatcom County Department of Health.

Infected bats weren’t listed by species on the state report, but Morin said rabies has been found locally in little brown bats, big brown bats, and silver-haired bats. Silver-haired bats are the ones most commonly infected, she said.

Rabies is a viral disease that affects the central nervous system, and it is almost always fatal. All warm-blooded mammals including humans are susceptible to rabies.

Morin said cuts or scratches from bats can be small or difficult to see.

Those who come in direct contact with a bat should contact their doctor and the county Health Department, she said.

“This includes any time a bat is found in a room with an unattended child or a sleeping person who may not be aware they were exposed,” Morin said. “Try to isolate or safely trap the bat if you can, and contact the environmental health specialists at 360-778-6000.”

Learn more about bats at cdc.gov/rabies/bats/contact/index.html and at wdfw.wa.gov/living/bats.html.

Robert Mittendorf: 360-756-2805, @BhamMitty

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