Public Health Preparedness
Rabies is a viral disease that attacks the nervous
systems of humans and mammals. It is most commonly found in bats, skunks, foxes, and
raccoons. Unvaccinated pets or livestock can also be infected.
How is rabies spread?
Rabies is spread when an animal or human is
bitten or scratched by an infected animal, or if
an infected animal's saliva comes in contact with
broken skin or mucous membranes.
How can I protect myself?
Because the majority of rabies cases in people
in the United States are contracted from wild
animals, people should avoid contact with
them — especially bats, skunks, and raccoons.
How can I protect my home?
Some simple steps can be taken to make your
home less appealing to wild animals:
- Never approach or touch wild or stray animals
or pets that you don't know well.
- Do not encourage any wild animal to live in
your neighborhood by making pet food,
garbage or handouts available to them.
- Install a chimney cap to prevent raccoons
and other animals from living in your home.
- Seal areas around your home that animals
may use as a den, such as an attic, crawl
space, or areas under your porch or deck.
What are the signs of rabies in animals?
It is not always possible to determine that an animal
is infected with rabies by simple observation.
Signs in an animal which should lead you to
suspect that it may be rabid are:
- Excessive drooling and foaming at the mouth
- Abnormal behavior such as:
- Wild animals losing their fear of human
- Animals normally active at night being
seen during the day.
What do I need to know about bats and rabies?
Since 1980, the majority of cases of human rabies
diagnosed in the United States have been
associated with bat rabies virus. The most frequently
found rabid animal in Michigan is the
bat. People normally know when they have
been bitten by a bat. However, bats have small
teeth that may not leave easily identifiable
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
(CDC) recommends post-exposure treatment
when there is reasonable probability that contact
with a bat could have occurred and rabies
cannot be ruled out through prompt testing of
the bat. If you find a bat in the room of:
- A sleeping person
- An unattended child
- Someone mentally or physically challenged
- An intoxicated individual
you should save the bat for testing and seek
medical attention immediately. Call Kalamazoo
County Animal Services and Enforcement to
capture the animal or for advice on how to capture
the animal. If professional help is unavailable,
use precautions to capture the bat
safely — wear leather gloves and when the bat
lands, approach it slowly. Place a box or coffee
can over the bat. Punch holes in a piece of cardboard
to allow the bat to breathe, and slide it under
the container to trap the bat inside. Tape the
cardboard to the container to secure it. Contact
Kalamazoo County Health & Community Services
or Animal Services and Enforcement to arrange
for rabies testing.
What should I do if I've been bitten by a bat?
- Immediately wash the wound with lots of
soap and water.
- Capture the bat (if possible) so it can be
checked for rabies. Take care to prevent additional
bites. Do not damage the head. Rabies
testing is done on the brain.
- When dealing with a dead bat, wear gloves
or use a shovel to move the animal. Put the
bat's body in a heavy-duty plastic bag and
place in a protected area away from people
and other animals. If necessary, a bat may be
kept overnight on ice or in a refrigerator until
it can be picked up for testing. Do not
freeze. Clean the area and any tools used to
remove the bat with one part bleach to ten
- Do not delay seeking medical attention. Go
to your family doctor or to the nearest emergency
room. Also, call Kalamazoo County
Health & Community Services immediately.
Some people are afraid to seek treatment
because they have heard it involves a series
of painful shots to the abdomen. This is no
What should I do if my pet is exposed to a bat?
If you think your pet or domestic animal has
been bitten by a bat, contact your veterinarian
or Kalamazoo County Animal Services and Enforcement
to have the bat tested for rabies. Remember
to keep vaccinations current for cats,
dogs, and other animals.
How can I keep bats out of my home?
Some bats live in buildings, and there may be no
reason to evict them if there is little chance for
contact with people. However, bats should always
be prevented from entering rooms of your home.
For assistance with bat-proofing your home, call
Animal Services and Enforcement. If you choose to
do the bat-proofing yourself, here are a couple
things to remember:
- During summer, many young bats are unable to
fly. If you exclude adult bats during this time,
the young may be trapped inside. Thus, if possible,
avoid exclusion from May through August.
- Most bats leave in the fall or winter to hibernate,
so these are the best times to bat-proof your
How can rabies be prevented?
- Teach children never to handle unfamiliar animals,
wild or domestic, even if they appear
friendly. Love your own, leave other animals
alone is a good principle for children to learn.
- Wash any wound from an animal thoroughly
with soap and water and seek medical attention
- Have all dead, sick, or easily captured bats
tested for rabies if exposure to people or pets
- Prevent bats from entering living quarters or occupied
spaces in homes, churches, schools, and
other similar areas where they might contact
people and pets.
- Be a responsible pet owner by keeping vaccinations
current for all dogs, cats, and ferrets, keeping
your cats and ferrets inside and your dogs
under direct supervision, calling Animal Services
and Enforcement to remove stray animals
from your neighborhood and, if you have not already
done so, have your pets spayed or neutered.
Kalamazoo County Health & Community Services is committed to providing equitable, culturally competent care to all individuals served, regardless of race, age, sex, color, national origin, religion, height, weight, marital status, political affiliation, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability.
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