Authorities have confirmed a rare case of rabies in a brown bat found Monday in a back yard in the 400 block of Mainberry Drive, near west 3rd Street.
Madera County Animal Services Director Kirsten Gross said the small brown bat was found by a resident on the ground in his back yard.
“He thought the bat was injured and (just) couldn’t fly,” Gross said. “But he did the right thing and didn’t touch it. He called the Madera police and Animal Control. The residents also had their dog in the back yard, and it’s not known if the dog had direct any contact with the bat. That dog is now under six months’ quarantine, as the dog’s rabies vaccine wasn’t up to date."
“We are hoping this is an isolated case. Bats are insect eaters and are normally very beneficial because they keep the bug supply down. They live in groups in trees, crevasses, buildings, around water ... just about everywhere.” she said.
Rabies is a deadly neurological viral disease in animals and humans that is passed through saliva and causes swelling of the brain and often presents with unusual behavioral symptoms such as aggression, confusion, biting, excessive salivation, tremors, etc. Any cat, dog or person coming into direct contact and that is scratched or bitten by a bat, or other animal carrying the rabies virus is then also potentially exposed. Should a person become scratched or bitten by a rabid animal, prompt medical evaluation and treatment with an antibody serum is necessary, and prevents the disease from progressing in most cases.
The two- to three-inch bat was aggressive and actively attempting to lunge and bite at animal shelter staff as they observed, evaluated and then euthanized it, before sending it for testing.
“Rabies is rare, but it’s a reminder that this is serious and frightening disease — because there is no treatment or cure. Once the disease progresses in an animal or in a human, it’s fatal. We haven’t had a case in (animals) in the city in many years. The last case was up in the mountains, two years ago in a skunk. The primary carriers of this deadly disease are bats, skunks and (foxes or) raccoons.” Gross said. “People can contract Rabies from their domestic pets, which is why it’s important to vaccinate your pets against rabies.”
Gross also cautioned people against approaching or trying to help wildlife that appears to be ill or is acting unusually, and she said to call police or animal control instead. “That’s best left to the animal control professionals to handle.”
California Department of Public Health reported 226 confirmed animal cases of rabies statewide for 2016. Ninety-seven percent or 220 of those were in wild animals. Bats represented 78% of those cases, skunks 14%, and foxes 5%, according the report.
Of the six remaining 2016 rabies cases, three were in domestic dogs and three cases were documented in domestic or feral cats, after those animals were thought to have come into contact with infected wild animals. One of the cases reportedly involved an indoor cat, who the owner claimed did not go outside.
Four fatal cases of rabies in humans have been reported in California in the last 10 years, the last case being in 2012 in Contra Costa County.
“Protect your pets and your family by getting your pets vaccinated and keep them current for rabies. State law requires all dogs three months old and over be vaccinated for rabies, and then be kept up to date with those vaccinations. It’s also important for our community, as dogs or cats are much more likely to come in contact with rabid wildlife than a human being. Our next local shot clinic is coming up on Saturday, June 2nd, at the fairgrounds,“ Gross said.
Rabies vaccinations are required by law to be administered by a licensed veterinarian, and are offered at all local vets.
A low cost rabies vaccine clinic is held the first Saturday of each month, 10 am to 12:00 noon, at the Madera District Fairgrounds and is sponsored by The Friends of The Madera Animal Shelter volunteers. Rabies shots are $10. The Parvo/Distemper combination shot is $15. All proceeds benefit the animals at the Madera County Animal Shelter.
A reduced price, walk-in shot clinic is also available at the HOPE Animal Foundation in Fresno at 5490 West Spruce Avenue, Monday - Thursday 10 am until 3:30 pm. Rabies shots are $15. The Parvo/Distemper combination shot is $15.