A case of human rabies has not been reported in Illinois since 1954, “Nevertheless, the potential is there with the increasing documentation of infected bats and some skunks in the past few years. The time of year also presents increased risk, so it is important not to become complacent,” said Public Health Administrator Mike Bacon.
“You can’t tell by looking at a bat if it is rabid. The animal does not have to exhibit symptoms to carry the virus. Early signs of rabies include changes in an animal’s normal behavior. Nocturnal animals may come out during daylight hours. A bat that is active during the day- found on the ground or unable to fly, is more likely than others to be rabid,” noted Kara McCluskey, Winnebago County Health Department Communicable Disease Supervisor, “It is important to remember that you should never try to approach or catch a bat in your home. Call Winnebago County Animal Services for bat pick-up and testing. Greater than 95% of bats will test negative for rabies, eliminating the need for treating exposed persons.”
Some other tips for preventing the spread of rabies:
- Never touch a bat or other wild animals, and do not feed or unintentionally attract animals with open garbage cans or litter.
- Be a responsible pet owner and keep vaccinations up to date for all dogs, cats & ferrets.
- Wild animals that are sick should not be brought into a home to be nursed back to health, nor should they be adopted as pets.
- If a bat is found indoors, the structure should be thoroughly inspected for the presence of other roosting bats.
For more information, please call the Health Department at 815-720-4000 and ask for the Communicable Disease program. Information can also be found on the Illinois Department of Public Health, CDC and Winnebago County Health Department websites. For information about a referral for capturing bats or for instructions on submission of specimens for testing, please call Winnebago County Animal Services at 815-319-4100.