The Palo Alto Animal Control Division is warning the public to be aware of the presence of rabies in the Baylands of Palo Alto after a bat found last week tested positive for the disease.
The sick bat was found on the ground by visitors near the Emily Renzel Swamp Pond on October 12. The bat tested positive for rabies, the animal control division said in an Instagram post.
“Bats rarely attack or bite people except when handled. Please never touch bats, especially if they appear sick or dead and always teach your children this,” Animal Control said. .
Palo Alto Animal Control frequently receives calls for bats, the division said.
“If they’re just trapped in a building and there’s no possibility of human/pet exposure, we release them. However, bats on the ground usually mean they’re sick (sometimes just overheating) and the potential for exposure increases. It’s very possible that someone could pick it up or that a dog or other animal might think it’s a tasty treat,” the division said.
“There were no known exposures for this particular bat. However, as we placed it in a tree and it was not well, we decided to euthanize it and test for rabies. .”
Rabies is a virus that attacks the central nervous system of mammals, including humans, eventually causing disease in the brain and death. In US wildlife, it is most commonly found in bats, raccoons, skunks and foxes, although any mammal can be infected, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Rabies is rare among people in the United States. The CDC said only one to three cases are reported each year, but each year about 60,000 Americans receive post-exposure prophylaxis, a series of injections, to prevent rabies after being bitten or scratched by an infected or suspected infected animal. About 90% of reported cases of rabies in animals occur in wild animals.
Contact with infected bats is the leading cause of rabies death among people in the United States. At least 7 in 10 people who die of rabies in the country have been infected by bats, according to the CDC.
In 2020, six bats tested positive for rabies in Santa Clara County and four bats tested positive in San Mateo County, according to a 2020 annual report. rabies surveillance report by the California Department of Public Health.
In California, rabies was confirmed in 248 animals in 2020, lower than the 276 confirmed cases in 2019, but 11% above the annual average of 224 cases in 2010-2019, according to the annual report. Of the total, 246 were found in wild animals in 2020. Bats accounted for 221 cases, or 89.1%. Skunks accounted for 24 cases, or 9.7%, and only one fox had rabies. In 2020, a domestic cat and a dog tested positive for rabies.
The number of cases of rabid wild animals has also increased. In 2020, the 221 rabid bats reported were 14.5% higher than the annual average of 193 reported in the previous 10 years, 2010-2019, according to the state’s public health department.
Rabies was not diagnosed in any California resident in 2020, but two cases of rabies were diagnosed in people in the state between 2010 and 2019. The most recent case was reported in a resident of Contra County Costa in 2012, according to the state public health department.
Wildlife can also infect household animals such as cats and dogs, which may chase, tangle with, or pick up an infected animal. Pet dogs, cats, ferrets and some horses should be vaccinated against rabies, American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) said on its website.
If a pet comes into contact with a potentially rabid animal or has been bitten, even if the animal has a current vaccination, it should be revaccinated immediately, kept under the control of the owner and observed for a period specified by law of state or local ordinance. , according to the AVMA.
Exposure to rabies from unvaccinated pets can have heartbreaking consequences. In dogs and cats, rabies is 100% fatal and is also fatal in humans if not treated immediately, San Mateo County Health noted on its website.
Animals with expired vaccines should be assessed on a case-by-case basis. Dogs, cats and ferrets that have never been vaccinated and are exposed to a rabid animal can be euthanized or placed in strict isolation for six months. Animals other than dogs, cats and ferrets bitten by a rabid or potentially rabid animal may need to be euthanized immediately, the AVMA said.
The best way to prevent an animal from becoming infected with rabies is to keep their rabies vaccines up to date.
“When you get a reminder that your dog license is expiring, it’s time to update your dogs’ rabies vaccine. Also, keep dogs on a leash to minimize close encounters with ground bats. Laws as our municipal leash code and state mandatory rabies vaccination law help protect you and your pets,” said Palo Alto Animal Control.
Anyone who sees a bat that doesn’t seem well should call their local animal control agency, Animal Control said. In Palo Alto, Los Altos, or Los Altos Hills, people are asked to contact the agency through the non-emergency police dispatch line at 650-329-2413 or contact the Santa Clara County Vector Control District at 408-918-4770.
Residents of Mountain View, Campbell, Monte Sereno and Santa Clara should report animal bites and suspicious or sick wildlife to the Silicon Valley Animal Control Authority by calling 408-764-0344.
Anyone who comes into contact with a bat is asked to call the Santa Clara County Public Health Department at 408-885-4214.
In San Mateo County, anyone who comes into contact with a bat or is bitten by an animal should contact San Mateo County Health and call the Peninsula Humane Society & SPCA at 650-340-8200.