BENTON COUNTY, Ore. — It can take one bite for a human or animal to contract the rabies virus – and in Benton County, there have been two cases of rabid bats within the last week.
Within the last week, pet owners had their cat euthanized after it killed a rabid bat.
“The option there was to quarantine the animal for six months,” said Bill Emminger, Division Director of Environmental Health in Benton County. “And the owners felt that they couldn’t do that and had the animal euthanized.”
Emminger says a cat and dog came in contact with a rabid bat last week. The dog was up-to-date on its rabies vaccines. The cat did not have a recent rabies vaccination.
As long as an animal bites, scratches, or is bit or scratched by another animal with rabies, Emminger says it will almost certainly contract the virus if is not vaccinated. Because health officials can only test for rabies after the animal is dead, the cat’s owner decided to put the cat down.
“If an animal’s properly vaccinated, it’s going to help protect the animal as well as the public and the animal owner from being exposed to rabies,” Emminger said.
Another vaccinated dog came in contact with a different rabid bat in the county last week as well. Both dogs are being quarantined in their homes for 45 days, but Emminger says the situation is a good reminder for other pet owners to keep their animals up-to-date on their vaccines.
“Rabies is virtually 100 percent fatal if it’s transmitted to humans,” he said. “And that’s one of the reasons we take it so seriously. There’s very little room for error with rabies.”
Even though two bats were discovered to have rabies in the county last week, Emminger says about nine percent of bats in Oregon have rabies.
“I don’t think people should be fearful. But I think people should be aware. If you see an animal that’s acting strangely, avoid it.”
Emminger says at the end of the summer, bats are more active as they look for a place to hibernate and build their nests for the winter.
If your pets have been in contact with a bat, or if you find one in your home, Emminger says to try to capture it to bring it in for testing – only if it is safe to do so.
For more tips and information about rabies, click here.