The recent finding of a second Rabies positive bat in a Watseka residence is of serious concern because Watseka, for unknown reasons, harbors a very large number of bats. This information is intended to explain the significance of these findings, and more importantly what should be done to minimize the risk.
Of the 23 bats from Watseka examined in 2008, two are now positive for an apparent incidence rate of almost 10%. There has always been a reservoir of Rabies in feral animals in Illinois, traditionally skunks and raccoons. It would appear from this data that the Rabies reservoir in Iroquois Co. is now in occupied homes in Watseka, and the chance of human exposure is greatly enhanced. The ten-year-old Indiana girl that died of Rabies in 2006 was bitten by a Silver Haired bat that carries a particularly virulent form of the virus. The bats in Watseka are primarily Brown Bats, a legally protected species. The Rabies virus usually associated with Brown Bats, though not as virulent as that carried by the Silver Haired species, will certainly cause the disease in humans.
A rabid bat flying around in an occupied residence presents a special and serious risk, particularly if there is a human sleeping in the room, because the bat is able to detect the body heat of the sleeping person and is attracted to this heat source. It may even attempt to settle in very close to this heat source, and when the person moves he/she is bitten, and may not know that a bite has occurred. This chain of events, though unlikely, is the reason for the State sponsored program to examine all bats found in the living area of a dwelling.
The above should reemphasize the importance of having all household pet animals vaccinated for Rabies, even those who do not go outside at all.
State law requires that all dogs be vaccinated for Rabies. The interpretation of the law as relates to cats is somewhat ambiguous, and the rules for its enforcement have not yet been written. In Iroquois County and particularly in Watseka, however, it is absolutely essential that cats, even though they never go out of the house must be vaccinated for Rabies. A cat would never attack a raccoon of a skunk but it will certainly attack a bat without provocation, and particularly if the bat is disabled by disease.
It is important that any bat, dead or alive, found within the living area of a dwelling be examined for Rabies. The body should be kept refrigerated until it can be delivered to Animal Control. Arrangements can be made by calling (815) 265-7382 or (815) 383-4899 or the Ford Iroquois Health Dept. (815) 432-2483.
If a rabies positive bat has been found in your home or part of your home is badly infested with bats, you can hire a Nuisance Animal Control agency to conduct an expulsion, driving the bats out of the house and then sealing the openings where they are gaining access. One way that an occasional bat may enter a house is thru the furnace or water heater vent pipe. You may want to cover these with hardware cloth having ½ inch openings.
Iroquois Co. Animal Control will be vigorously enforcing the law requiring the registration and vaccination of dogs. The State’s Attorney has assured us that during this potentially serious threat to human health they will prosecute violators to the fullest extent, and collect the resulting fines in court if necessary. Dogs represent the most common link between humans and the Rabies reservoir in feral animals, and like cats they will attack bats disabled by disease.
lthough the preventative treatment of humans for possible exposure is now very safe, it is also very expensive. The three injection series can cost anywhere form $1,200 to $3, 000 depending upon the protocol required. If antiserum is used for serious exposure from bites on the head or neck, the expense could be much more. Keep in mind that the incubation period, the time from exposure to onset of symptoms, for Rabies can be one to three months or longer, so there is usually ample time to be vaccinated if there is the possibility of an exposure. However, once symptoms appear, there is little chance for survival.