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Louisville health agency urges caution after bats found with rabies

Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife

Louisville’s health authority is urging the public to be vigilant after three local bats have tested positive for rabies over the past year.

According to the Metro Department of Public Health and Wellness, an infected bat was discovered in the past month in the 40299 ZIP code. All three bats have been found in the Jeffersontown area.

Last year, the Kentucky Department for Public Health located three bats with rabies in the 40059 ZIP code, around the Prospect area.

If untreated, rabies is a fatal disease that is most often transmitted through bites, according to the CDC, but can also occur when infectious material like saliva comes into contact with scratches, abrasions or open wounds.

Ciara Warren, one of the city’s environmental health managers, said a person who thinks or knows they were bitten should wash the affected area with soap and water and immediately seek medical treatment, which is a four-dose vaccine regimen

She added that someone may not realize they were bitten by a bat due to their small but sharp teeth. Once a person begins showing rabies symptoms after an infectious bite, which usually takes about two to eight weeks, the disease is virtually always fatal.

A resident who finds a bat in their house should attempt to isolate the animal without catching it, Warren said, such as by closing a door or throwing a blanket over it. Public Health and Wellness should then be contacted, and Animal Services can collect the bat and test it for rabies.

“If the bat does test negative you won't need to get the shots, but if the bat tests positive you should assume that you have been in contact with that bat,” Warren said.

Warren also advised the public to avoid touching a bat if not needed and to assume it has rabies. She said while the number of rabid bats found over the past year is not unusual, their appearance in Jeffersontown has her department concerned.

She added that bats are traditionally more observable in August and surrounding months.

“Bats do have, you know, a migration pattern too, and are more active during different parts of the year. So this time of year, summer into fall, we do see more activity from them.”

Louisville Metro requires dogs, cats and ferrets owned by residents to be vaccinated against rabies by 4 months of age.

Jacob is LPM's Business and Development Reporter. Email Jacob at jmunoz@lpm.org.

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