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King County’s first rabid bat of the year identified in Sammamish yard

Bats are known to be one of the most common animal drivers or rabies. (Seattle King County Public Health)

Warm weather in King County is often a welcome sight for many. Even so, it comes with one downside, with seasonal concerns over rabid bats already beginning to ramp up.

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Seattle-King County Public Health reported Monday that officials have identified the first bat to test positive for rabies in 2021. The animal was found by a Sammamish resident in their yard, who approached it wearing gloves to pick it up and move it.

The bat then “became aggressive and bit the resident multiple times.” After Public Health was notified, the bat was apprehended, later testing positive for rabies. The resident that was bit promptly began post-exposure treatment to protect them against the disease.

Last year, 45 bats that had contact with King County residents were tested for rabies, five of which tested positive.

Bats are known to be one of the prime animal transmitters of rabies in Washington, and can spread it to humans through bare skin contact or saliva. Public Health cites data taken between 1988 and 2018, which showed that out of 517 animals that tested positive for rabies, “almost all” of them were bats.

King County gets anywhere between 70 and 100 reports of exposure to rabid bats every summer.

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If you, your children, or your pet have recently touched or picked up a bat, you’re advised to immediately “wash the area that came into contact with the bat thoroughly with soap and water,” call your medical provider so you can receive “a series of rabies vaccinations as soon as possible,” and report the interaction to Seattle-King County Public Health at (206) 296-4774.

“Rabies is preventable but only if treated before symptoms appear, so seeking medical evaluation as soon as possible is important if you’ve had contact with a bat,” Health Officer Dr. Jeff Duchin said in a written release. “Contact includes touching a bat, being bitten, scratched, or any other bare skin contact with a bat or its saliva.”

Anyone who encounters a bat in their home should call Public Health immediately. Dead bats should only be handled with shovels and thick gloves, and placed in boxes for testing purposes.

“Do not throw it away!” Public Health advises.

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