Beware of Bats
Rabies is a viral disease that can infect mammals and causes inflammation of the brain. Once symptoms begin, there is no treatment and it is always fatal. Rabies is typically transmitted by the bite of an infected animal via saliva. It is also transmitted if saliva from an infected animal gets into an open wound or onto a mucous membrane such as the eyes, nose or mouth. Inhalation rabies has occurred, but only in special circumstances, such as persons exposed to large amounts of aerosolized virus in bat caves. Other cases of human rabies reported from recipients of tissues or organs from donors that died of rabies.
There is no typical set of symptoms of rabies, though it generally takes one of two forms. The first is furious rabies where the animal has an increase in activity characterized by agitation which can last for several days. The animal is restless and becomies vicious, biting at anything and everything. You may see a lack of coordination and tremors. Convultions, paralysis, and mental physical exhaustion occur just prior to death. The second form is dumb rabies where the animal simply becomes lethargic, depressed, and paralyzed. The animal dies shortly thereafter.
Nationwide rabies commonly occurs in bats, skunks, fox, coyotes, raccoons, and a wide variety of other wildlife species. In Michigan, rabies occurs most commonly in bats and a small number of skunks. The majority of human rabies deaths in the last 20 years in the United States have been caused by the rabies virus of bats. Michigan's last fatal case of human rabies was due to the bat-strain of rabies as well.
In order to prevent rabies, we need to be responsible pet owners and avoid contact with unfamiliar animals. All pets should be vaccinated and kept up-to-date for rabies by a licensed veterinarian. Vaccination is important for not only keeping your pet from getting rabies, but also providing a barrier of protection for you if a wild animal bites your pet. There is no post-exposure treatment available for animals, so an unvaccinated pet exposed to a potentinal rabies carrier may be required to be euthanized. It is best to keep your pets under direct supervison so they do not come into contact with wild animals. Spay or neuter your pets to help reduce the number of unwanted animals that may not be properly cared for or regularly vaccinated. Prevent bats from entering living quarters or occupied spaces in homes, churches, schools or other similar settings. Do not handle, feed, or attract wild animals with food, open garbage cans, or litter. Never adopt wild animals or bring them into your house. Do not try to nurse unfamiliar sick animals to health. It is very important to teach children to never handle unfamiliar animals, wild or domestic. "Love your own, Leave others alone" is a good principle for children to learn.
If there are stray or sick animals in your neighborhood, call your local animal control agency. Animal bites should be reported to the local health department.