KALISPELL - A bat that had human contact recently became the first animal to test positive for rabies in Flathead County in 2023.
The Flathead City-County Health Department (FCCHD) notes that while not all bats carry rabies the animal must be available for testing in order to be certain.
People are asked to contact the FCCHD Communicable Disease Line at 406-751-8117 if a bat has had animal or human contact.
Health officials will assess the situation and cover the cost of the rabies testing if deemed necessary.
If a bat is not available for testing and a person or animal has been bitten, scratched or been in direct contact, it is considered a rabies exposure and the appropriate follow-up must be completed.
FCCHD further stated in a news release that bats are of special concern because a bat bite may not be noticeable.
If a bat is found in an area where contact may have occurred but gone undetected, such as a bedroom with a sleeping adult or child, it should be tested for rabies.
“We urge residents to be cautious around bats. If you or your pet has had direct contact with a bat, please contact the Health Department to ensure proper handling and testing,” said Health Officer Jen Rankosky.
Instructions on how to safely capture a bat for testing are available on the FCCHD’s website.
People can contact the Flathead City-County Health Department at 406-751-8117 to discuss potential rabies exposure and proper procedures.
FCCHD reminds everyone of the following rabies prevention tips:
- Do not feed or handle wild animals, especially bats. Teach children never to touch wild animals or handle bats, even dead ones. Ask children to tell an adult if they see or find a bat.
- Vaccinate your dogs and cats against rabies. Cats are particularly susceptible to rabies exposure due to a higher risk of interaction with wild animals. All dogs and cats are required to have a current rabies certificate in Flathead County.
- Bat-proof your house. Place screens on all windows, doors and chimneys to prevent bats from entering. Prevent bats from roosting in attics or buildings by covering outside entry points. However, to avoid trapping any young bats who will die or try to make their way into your rooms, seal the openings permanently after August or in the fall after the bats have left for the season.
- Watch for abnormal wild animal behavior. Most wild animals avoid humans and seeing skunks and bats during the daytime is rare. If you see an animal acting strangely, leave it alone and contact law enforcement or animal control if you think it may pose a danger.