LANSING — Michigan’s first case of rabies for 2017 was recently confirmed in a big brown bat (Eptesicus fuscus) from Ingham County.
This is the time of year when rabies is typically first reported, and it serves as a reminder for Michiganders to adopt practices that protect their families and animals from rabies.
Rabies is a viral disease of mammals that is transmitted through the bite or scratch of an infected animal. Bats and skunks are the most common carriers of rabies in Michigan. In 2016, there were 41 cases of rabies in Michigan wildlife, consisting of 37 rabid bats and four rabid skunks.
Rabies is fatal to humans if not properly treated. Preventive treatment is given to people who are exposed to a potentially rabid animal and treatment is not necessary if an animal test is negative for rabies.
Your pets and other domestic animals can be infected if they are bitten by a rabid wild animal. Talk to your veterinarian about vaccinating domestic pets and livestock.
Vaccination is important to protect your pet from rabies and it also provides a barrier of protection if a wild animal bites your pet. If your animal is bitten or scratched by a wild animal or if you believe there has been unsupervised contact with wildlife, contact your veterinarian as soon as possible.
Even if your animal is currently vaccinated against rabies, additional actions may need to be taken to prevent the spread of the virus. If possible, safely confine or capture the wild animal without touching the animal and contact your local animal control officer, local health department or veterinarian, as the animal may need to be tested for rabies.
People should avoid contact with wild animals. Do not keep wild animals as pets. Wild animals can carry rabies without showing clinical signs. If a wild animal appears sick, report it to the Department of Natural Resources online or at 517-336-5030.
If you are bitten or scratched by an animal, seek medical attention and alert the local health department. A directory of local public health departments is available at www.malph.org.
If you find a bat in your home, safely confine or collect the bat if possible and contact your local health department to determine if it should be tested for rabies.
More information on how to collect a bat safely can be found on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s website.
If you are unable or would prefer not to confine or collect the bat yourself, you may consider hiring a bat/wildlife removal service. More information about rabies in Michigan can be found at www.michigan.gov/rabies.