Two bats that have tested positive for rabies have been found in Tulare County this year, one in the City of Tulare and one in south Visalia. Public health officials warn community members to exercise great caution around bats, educate their children about staying away from bats, and never touch a bat with bare hands.
Tulare County Public Health Officer Dr. Karen Haught notes, “Bats exhibiting abnormal behavior, such as being active during the day, sitting on the ground, or not being able to fly or evade contact are more likely to have rabies. Do not attempt to handle bats, whether they are found in your home, on your property, or in a public place; call your local animal control instead.”
In 2018, 13 percent of bats tested by the Tulare County Public Health Lab were found to have rabies. Rabies is transmitted by the saliva of an infected bat through a bite or contact of the saliva with mucous membranes or an open cut or wound. Rabies is a serious and fatal illness, with an incubation period of one week to several months. If there is an exposure, the disease can be prevented with a safe vaccine and immune globulin.
If a bat is found, wear heavy gloves to cover it with a can or box and request assistance from the animal control officer in your area. If you’re in the county, call Animal Services at (559) 636-4030, and if you’re in the city, contact your local animal control agency. Never touch a bat with your bare hands, and teach your children to never touch a bat but to call an adult for assistance.
If you have had contact with a bat, been bitten by a bat, or a bat was in a room where there was a young child or someone was sleeping, call a doctor or the Tulare County Public Health Branch Communicable Disease office at (559) 685-5720 to discuss whether rabies post-exposure prophylaxis is needed. The vaccine should be initiated as soon as possible after an exposure is recognized, but if the concern is not identified initially, the vaccine is effective anytime after exposure, as long as symptoms have not developed.