Rabid brown bat is found

A small brown bat found in a backyard on Evergreen Drive off Crane Valley Road (Road 426) has tested positive for rabies, an often fatal disease, according to authorities. It is the third such bat to test positive for rabies in the city.

Madera County Animal Services Director Kirsten Gross said the bat was found still alive but died shortly after the resident’s three dogs had pounced on and played with it.

“The downside is the residents hadn’t kept all the dogs’ rabies vaccinations current,” Gross said. “Only one dog had been recently vaccinated. The other two dogs are now quarantined for six months, to be observed for any signs of rabies.”

“It is pretty unusual and scary to have a third bat test positive for rabies, in about 60 days in our area,” Gross said, “but I think more bats are also being found and tested, as residents become more aware of the potentially fatal human disease. The only protection is to vaccinate your dogs, cats and even horses against this fatal virus.” she said.

Rabies is passed through saliva and causes swelling of the brain. It often presents in animals with unusual behavioral symptoms such as aggression, confusion, biting, excessive salivation, tremors, etc. Any cat, dog or person coming into direct contact and 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 vaccine is necessary, and prevents the disease from progressing, in most cases.

“Rabies is rare, but it’s a reminder that this is a 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. 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 dogs and cats 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. 97 percent, or 220 of those, were in wild animals. Bats represented 78 percent of those cases, skunks 14 percent, and foxes 5 percent, 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, Aug. 4, at the Madera fairgrounds.” Gross said.

Rabies vaccinations are required by law to be administered by a licensed veterinarian, and are offered at all local vets’ offices.

A low cost rabies vaccine clinic is held the first Saturday of each month, 10 a.m. to 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.