ROCK SPRINGS — A bat was found crawling around on the ground in downtown Rock Springs on Sept. 1 was sent to the state vet lab, where it tested positive for rabies.

The Rock Springs Police Department urges the public to make sure all pets are vaccinated for rabies. If you see any bats crawling on the ground and not able to fly or out during the daytime, contact Rock Springs Animal Control at 307-352-1455 or Central Dispatch at 307-362-6575.

Dr. Jean Stachon, Sweetwater County health officer, along with Wyoming Department of Health officials are also warning Wyoming residents to be cautious if they encounter bats because of rabies concerns.

A few recent incidents have provoked this concern. The department has been notified about the presence of bats in and around a number of homes, churches and other public areas.

Bats are an important part of our ecosystem in Wyoming and can be beneficial for insect control, according to a press release. However, some bats may carry the rabies virus, which can lead to infections of humans and other animals. Bats present a serious public health threat when they inhabit structures where humans live or congregate.

Several steps can be taken to help prevent human exposure to rabies:

-- Vaccinate your pets

-- Maintain control of your pets to reduce their exposure to wildlife

-- Report any stray or ill animals to Animal Control

-- Use window screens, chimney caps and draft-guards beneath doors to attics

-- Make sure that all doors to the outside are tightly closed

-- Seek expert advice on how to bat proof your home and the time of year this should be done

Rabies is nearly always a fatal disease in humans. However, it can be successfully prevented if treatment is started promptly after exposure.

Transmission of rabies from bat to human may occur from bites, even if the bite is not recognized. Rabies can also be transmitted from scratches or other physical contact that results in a break of a person’s skin or mucous membrane exposure. If you are bitten by an animal you should wash the wound thoroughly with warm water and soap and seek medical advice from a health care provider.

Preventive treatment should be considered in the following situations:

-- If you have physical contact with or have handled a bat, even if bite marks are not seen

-- Waking up in room in which a bat is present

-- Presence of a bat around an unattended child, mentally disabled person or intoxicated individual

The Department of Health recommends that anyone who experiences direct, physical contact with a bat should immediately contact their healthcare provider or their local public health nursing office for help and further information. If possible, any bat that comes into contact with humans should be carefully captured so that rabies testing can be performed.

Skunk and bat rabies are endemic to Wyoming but any mammal can become infected. Wyoming has had cats, cattle, horses and dogs, to name just a few, test positive for rabies over the years.

Those who have direct contact with a bat should immediately contact a healthcare provider or SWC Public Health Department 307-922-5390 for help and further information.

For questions about rabies, contact Dr. Karl Musgrave at 307-777-5825 or karl.musgrave@wyo.gov.

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