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Rabid Bat Found in Arkansas, Health Department Issues Warning

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – A rabid bat has been found at Sandy Beach on Greers Ferry Lake in Herber Springs, causing the Arkansas Department of Health to issue a warning about contact with bats.
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – A rabid bat has been found at Sandy Beach on Greers Ferry Lake in Herber Springs, causing the Arkansas Department of Health to issue a warning about contact with bats.

In a press release, the ADH warns anyone at Sandy Beach, or any location for that matter, has handled a bat or has been touched or bitten by a bat, they should contact their physician or the state public health veterinarian and the local health unit immediately.

Rabies can be seen in animals by the change in their behavior.  They may attack people or other animals for no reason, or they may lose their fear of humans and seem unnaturally friendly.

Bats may be out in the daylight, which is unusual for them, or they may fly toward people.  They also may be unable to fly and be fluttering on the ground.

While less than one percent of bats that appear healthy are rabid, many more sick bats or those behaving unusually are actually rabid.

People and pets are more likely to have contact with a sick bat than a healthy one.

An animal with rabies usually dies within one week of demonstrating signs of rabis.

The ADH warns that not all rabid animals act in these ways, so all wild animals should be avoided- especially skunks, bats and stray cats or dogs.

What can you do?

  • Be sure your dogs, cats and ferrets are up-to-date on their rabies vaccinations
  • Do not feed, touch or adopt wild animals
  • Keep family pets indoors at night
  • Bat-proof your home or summer camp in the fall or winter (The majority of human rabies cases are caused by bat bites.)
  • Encourage children to immediately tell an adult if any animal bites them
  • Teach children to avoid wildlife, strays, and all other animals they do not know well
  • Report all animal bites or contact with wild animals to the local health unit. Do not let any animal escape that has possibly exposed someone to rabies

The animal in question should be captured, if possible, without damaging its head or risking further exposure and tested for rabies.

Depending on the species, an animal can be observed or tested for rabies in order to avoid the need for rabies treatment.

If you think you have become exposed to an animal with rabies wash your wound thoroughly with soap and water and seek medical attention immediately. 

Contact your physician and county health unit immediately and report the incident. 

What is rabies?

Rabies is a virus that attacks the brain and spinal cord. It is a fatal disease. 

It is most often seen in wild animals such as skunks, bats, and foxes. Cats, dogs, ferrets and livestock can also develop rabies, especially if they are not vaccinated. 

In 2012, Arkansas had a record year for rabies with 131 rabid animals, including 101 skunks, 22 bats, three cows, three dogs, one horse and one cat. So far in 2013, the increase in rabies is continuing as the state has had 111 rabies-positive animals--97 skunks, 8 bats, two dogs, two cats, one cow and one horse.

The rabies virus lives in the saliva (spit) and nervous tissues of infected animals and is spread when they bite or scratch. The virus also may be spread if saliva from an infected animal touches broken skin, open wounds or the lining of the mouth, eyes or nose. 

Rabies in humans is rare in the United States. There are usually only one or two human cases per year. 

But the most common source of human rabies in the United States is bats. 

From 1995 through 2011, 48 people in the US were infected with rabies.  Of these, 35 or 73% were from bats. 

All dogs and cats in Arkansas are required to be vaccinated against rabies by a licensed veterinarian. This not only protects the animal, but also acts as a barrier between the wildlife exposures of rabies and people, as our pets are more likely to be exposed to a rabid bat directly than we are. Children especially should be reminded not to touch any wild animals and to stay away from stray pets.
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