In Illinois, August is when bats are most active and most likely to transmit rabies to humans or our dogs and cats. As of August 20th, Illinois has had 70 positive cases of rabies, all from bats. This is slightly up from where we were at this point last year. Six of the rabid bats were from Will County and another 36 are from the greater Chicagoland area. So what can you do to take preventative measures and stay rabies-free?
First, you should keep away from any bats that are on the ground or in your house or apartment. If a bat is on the ground and is struggling to fly away, there is a possibility that it may be infected with the rabies virus. One percent of all bats are infected with the virus. This may not sound like a high number, but in terms of disease it is actually a high rate. That percentage goes up when you find a bat on the ground that is unable to fly. Will County Animal Control should be immediately contacted if you come across a sick or injured bat. They can send any bat into the state lab for rabies testing. If you come into contact with a bat and your local animal control agency is unable to capture the bat then you should immediately contact your doctor.
The next thing you can do is to take preventative measures in your home. A few different species of bats in the Chicagoland area may take up residency in your attic or garage. Any openings in your house should be closed up. If you already have bats in your house then you should contact a trapper and have them removed. Many trappers will not just remove the bats, but will also fix any holes so the bats cannot return later. This can be costly, but it is worth the expense when it comes to you and your family member's lives.
Our pets also need to be protected from rabies. Many people aren't aware that there is an epidemic of raccoon rabies along the eastern seaboard. Unfortunately, dogs and cats frequently come into contact with these rabid raccoons and they later die from the disease. Hundred of dogs and cats contract the disease each year. This can be prevented by getting a rabies shot for your dog or cat. Your dog or cat may run through the yard and come into contact with a bat that is infected with the disease. You as the owner may not notice this and a couple of weeks or months go by and suddenly your pet starts to show neurological symptoms that can't be explained. By then it is too late and the animal may have exposed you or others to the disease. Not only is it recommended that you get a rabies shot for your pet, but in Illinois it is law. Avoid the citation from animal control and keep your family safe by getting your dog or cat the shot. When you go to the vet you will usually have the option of getting a 1-year or 3-year rabies shot. If you don't want to deal with the inconvenience of going to the vet then get the 3-year and you don't have to worry about it for a while.