Putnam County residents should not be alarmed at the recent local discovery of a rabid bat in the region. But they should be cautious.
A dog in Greencastle was recently bitten by a bat, and the bat was captured and taken to the Putnam County Health Department to be sent off for testing.
Lab results recently returned a positive test for rabies in the bat, and the dog has been quarantined. No human exposure to rabies occurred in the incident, according to the health department, and the dog is being monitored.
The Indiana State Board of Animal Health reports that statewide, nine bats have tested positive for rabies so far in 2007. Those cases had at least six instances of human exposure to rabies.
While the diagnosis of the Putnam County bat indicates the presence of the disease in the area, all Hoosiers should take a few common sense precautions every day to protect their families and pets against the disease, regardless of where they live.
If a bat is discovered inside a home, anyone who has been sleeping should be checked for possible scratches or bites from the bat.
If a bat is found dead outside the home, a person should use gloves or a plastic bag to pick up and dispose of the animal to limit contact by other animals and pets.
Never directly touch a dead bat due to the possible exposure to disease.
Rabies is a viral disease spread primarily through the bite of an infected animal. Dr. Sandra Norman, a veterinarian with the Indiana State Board of Animal Health, recommends the following guidelines to reduce the risk of rabies exposure to people and animals:
* Avoid contact with wild animals (not just bats) at all times. Do not feed or handle wild animals, and secure any trash and pet food in animal-proof containers.
Cover attic and chimney openings and other entry points in the home which may invite unwanted visitors.
* Wild animals are generally active at night and avoid contact with people. Daytime contact with humans is unusual, and should be viewed suspiciously.
* Indiana law requires all dogs, cats and ferrets 3 months of age or older be vaccinated against rabies by a licensed, accredited veterinarian.
Pets should be kept close to home, as free-roaming animals are at higher risk of exposure to the disease.
* If your pet is bitten or attacked by a wild animal, contact your veterinarian and local animal control. Your pet will need a booster if the animal is determined to be rabid.
* If you or someone in your family is bitten or scratched by a wild or stray animal or a pet, attempt to confine or kill the animal or determine the owner of the pet (if this can be done without risk of further injury).
Wear leather or latex gloves when handling all animals with possible exposure (dead or alive).
* Immediately wash the wound thoroughly with soap and water.
Call your physician at once to determine treatment and make sure the bite is reported to the local department of health and animal control.
For more information about rabies prevention and safety, visit the Indiana State Board of Animal Health online at www.boah.in.gov