PLATTSBURGH — A bat located in Clinton County has tested positive for rabies, and one individual is receiving treatment due to exposure.
The Clinton County Health Department received a call of a possible rabid bat over the past weekend, and a rapid response by on-call staff helped ensure it was tested and results returned to the county quickly.
“The Clinton County Health Department has trained Environmental Health and Safety staff on call every weekend from right around Memorial Day through Labor Day in the event of a weekend rabies situation,” said Laurie Williams, education coordinator for the Health Department.
“The Clinton County Legislature approves the rabies weekend on-call system on an annual basis and has done so for over a decade.”
It is more common for residents to interact with animals that can carry the rabies virus during the summer months, she explained.
The person receiving the rabies shots was not bitten by the bat but picked the animal up off the ground without protection, resulting in exposure, Williams noted.
“It is best to avoid contact with bats,” she said. “Approximately 1 percent of the bat population carries a strain of rabies. If people find one, they should use gloves or a shovel to place it in a plastic bag, store it in a cool/cold place until they can bring it to us for submission/testing.”
Rabies is a virus that affects the central nervous system and almost always results in death once symptoms occur. All mammals, including humans, can be infected with rabies. Common carriers are raccoons, skunks, foxes and bats.
Humans who have potentially been exposed to rabies receive an initial dose of human rabies immune globulin, which provides immediate antibodies until the immune system can begin producing its own antibodies. Then, a series of four rabies shots are administered over a two-week period.
MAKING A COMEBACK
Bat populations across the northeastern United States have been almost decimated by white-nose syndrome, a disease caused by a fungus that has an estimated 95 percent mortality rate when infecting a colony of the mammals.
The disease was first identified in Schoharie County in southern New York in 2006.
Populations have been making a comeback, however, and officials continue to advise precautions to avoid contact with bats. Homeowners should “bat-proof” their homes by making sure there are no small holes where bats can enter attics or other areas. Openings larger than one-quarter inch should be closed with caulking, and window screens, chimney caps and draft guards beneath doors to attics should also be used.
Animal-control experts can offer assistance in making sure homes are bat-proof.
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