County reports first rabid bats of 2009

Two rabid bats have been found in San Diego County, one in Santee and one in Clairemont, the  County Office of the Veterinarian said today.

One bat was found sick in Clairemont. The second bat  was brought into a Santee home by a pet cat. There was no known human exposure to the rabid  bats.    

“Rabies is most often transmitted by the bite or scratch of an infected animal,” said Dr. Nikos Gurfield,  county veterinarian. “Bat bites are extremely small and may not be recognized by the person who is bitten.  You should never handle or try to capture a bat.”  

Rabies is a fatal disease that affects the nervous system of humans and other mammals. The rabies  virus is carried in the saliva of infected animals. Since 1990, most human rabies cases in the United States  have been associated with unrecognized exposure to bats.

Humans exposed to rabies must begin treatment  immediately. Bats with human or animal contact are more likely to test positive for rabies. Every year,  approximately 10 percent of bats submitted to the county test positive for rabies. In the wild, less than 1 percent of bats have rabies.

Bats are vital to  maintaining a healthy ecosystem and are beneficial in controlling insect populations, according to the county. Vaccinating pets is the primary way to prevent the rabies virus from infecting people and pets.

State  law requires vaccination and licensing of all dogs. The county veterinarian also recommends that all cats be vaccinated for rabies. Unvaccinated animals exposed to rabies create the largest risk to people contracting  the disease.

To ensure that animals are safe from rabies, the County Department of Animal Services is having a low-cost rabies vaccination and dog licensing clinic at its animal shelter in Carlsbad on Sunday,  March 15, from noon to 2 p.m. at 2481 Palomar Airport Road.  Rabies vaccinations are $6. All dog and cat  owners can take advantage of this low fee regardless of where the dog or cat lives.   

Anyone finding a dead or sick bat is asked to call County Animal Services to have the bat picked up for rabies testing. Questions about rabies may be directed to the county veterinarian at 858-694-2838.

   
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