Bats are on the rise with rabies in Washington! The number keeps increasing and people are being warned to stay away from bats, especially the ones that look infected. A few bats had been found carrying the disease in King County as well as in Chelan and Snohomish counties.
Even though rabies is preventable, if it is not caught in time, it can lead to death. Over 340 people had to be treated for rabies exposure last year in Washington. Bats are actually the most common animals to have rabies. More than half of all bats have rabies in the area. There are 15 different species of bats in Washington. The state tests about 300 bats every year and about 10% of those have rabies.
If bats are outside during the day, or inside a house full of people, or found on the floor, then they are most likely ill and must be taken for testing so the virus does not spread. There has been a 10% increase in the number of ill bats over the past 2 years. State health officials say there is no specific cause for the increase in the number of ill bats. If one has it and is not tested, then it is easy to spread to other bats. It is just as easy for a human to get rabies if they come in contact with an ill bat. King County had the highest number of ill bats from 2013 to 2017. Spokane County had the second highest in that time period.
Although death caused by rabies is rare, there have been a few cases where people died from getting infected by bats. Over 10 years ago, a 4-year-old girl had died from being exposed to rabies in Lewis County. The bat that carried the virus had managed to get into her room but had not bitten her. Another case that involves death by this horrible virus happened I 1997. A 64-year old man who lived in Mason County died from being exposed to ill bats. He used to walk in bat-infested areas at nighttime which caused him to get rabies.
The few ways to avoid catching rabies is to stay away from anywhere bats are. If you come into contact with one during the day, report it immediately. Make sure to keep up with your pets’ rabies vaccinations, especially when the virus is spreading.