FREDERICKTOWN — A bat acting strangely in the middle of the day outside of a 100 block South Main St., Fredericktown business Monday has been identified as rabid — the fist case of rabies in Knox County since 2012, according to a Knox County Health Department press release.
Libby Javurek, a registered veterinary technician and office manager at Fredericktown Veterinary Clinic Inc., said she was walking into a business around 4:30 in the afternoon when she heard a squeaking sound and found the bat lying on the ground. Its rear-legs appeared not to be working, but more concerning, Javurek said, was that it was biting at the air and screaming.
Javurek was instructed by Knox County Dog Shelter and Animal Control to call the Fredericktown Police Department because they could provide “the most immediate” solution to the sick animal problem, according to Knox County Dog Warden John Carhart. Carhart explained that if a sick animal is found, the shelter, the wildlife division of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, the health department or a private sector business for removing animal nuisances are all places that will be able to help.
Javurek explained that identifying an animal infected with the rabies virus, a virus that affects neurological functioning, can be difficult because the symptoms at different stages are non-specific and are typically not as obvious as symptoms portrayed in movies with foam coming from the mouth. She noted that erratic behavior, stumbling, disorientation and confusion can all be signs that an animal has the virus which can affect any animal.
Cats and dogs, raccoons, skunks and bats, cows and horses and, yes, even humans, are susceptible to the disease. Once symptoms are apparent, Javurek said, the disease is deadly. A vaccine to prevent rabies is available for animals and is one of the least expensive vaccines an animal can get according to Javurek. She said that it is important for people with indoor and outdoor pets to have their animals vaccinated noting that often bats are found in homes and in those cases can pose a deadly risk to your pet.
Humans can get rabies from infected animal bites and from getting the animal’s saliva in their eyes, nose or mouth according to Health Department Environmental Health Director Nate Overholt. He noted that it was important to wash the area of the bite or saliva contact and to seek medical advice immediately. Overholt also suggested seeking immediate medical advice in situations where an unattended child, a sleeping person or a person in some way impaired by alcohol or drugs, or with other sensory or mental impairment, was in the same room as a bat because they may be unaware or unable to say that they had contact with the animal.
If possible, Overholt explained, it is best to capture animals suspected of rabies for testing. Animals are quarantined for up to 10 days, Overholt said, which allows the symptoms of rabies to develop. The rabies virus develops much more slowly in humans, according to Overholt, who said that humans are typically OK to receive treatment after the case of rabies is confirmed. Treatment is done through a series of vaccinations.
While it is best to have a professional catch the animal, Overholt said that individuals catching a bat themselves should be sure to use leather gloves that can’t be punctured by a bite. A coffee can or small box that is sealed is a good way to transport the animal from the capture location to the health department for testing.