CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (WCIA) — The Champaign-Urbana Public Health District is sharing a few helpful reminders to keep people and pets safe after a second bat in the county tested positive for rabies.
Bats can be helpful to the environment as pollinators and they can be spotted at both day and night. The Champaign Park District said Crystal Lake Park is a good place to find them hunting at night.
“Bats are everywhere and most of them do not have rabies,” said veterinarian Dr. Susan Norris. “But the fact is that all of them can carry it.”
Bats are animals to watch out for whether someone is at home or on a walk. Rabid bats can quickly spread rabies to people and pets through their bites. Norris said one of the biggest issues if that a bite can be hard to see and people might not even feel it.
“They occasionally will bite people, they don’t know it and they end up having clinical rabies, die, and it turns out there was a bat at some point in their bedroom,” Norris said.
Norris encouraged people to reach out to their doctor or veterinarian if they or their pets have been around one.
“If they have been in the vicinity of a bat, they probably just seek care with their doctor sooner rather than later,” Norris said.
University of Illinois Professor and Wildlife Extension Specialist Joy O’Keefe studies bats. She said they can appear anywhere anytime.
“The way that we detect a bat that’s rabid is if the bat is behaving different than normal,” O’Keefe said. “And so it shows up, maybe in someone’s living space or on the sidewalk outside their house and then people turn it in to people tested.”
O’Keefe said she is conducting a study with her team to find out the best places to build safe spaces for bats.
“Which would ultimately help to promote healthy populations of bats less likely to have viruses like rabies,” O’Keefe said.
Norris offered a few helpful tips if anyone ever encounters a bat:
“Really just try to avoid it,” she said. “Maybe go indoors, try to put some distance between the animal.”
If they ever come inside, the Illinois Department of Public Health recommends safely capturing the animal so it can be picked up for testing. Norris also reminded people to vaccinate their pets and go to the doctor right away if they’ve been exposed.
People who find and capture bats should call Animal Control in their area. Animal Control is the agency that sends bats off for testing.