Health dept.: Beware of rabid bats this winter

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EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) -- Health leaders in Wisconsin are warning all that bats could be a threat to you and your family's health.

The new warning comes from the recent discovery of a bat in northwestern Wisconsin that tested positive for rabies.

That's concerning because experts say it's rare to find a rabid bat in the thick of winter.

“The fact there's a rabid bat in northwestern Wisconsin, and the fact that it’s happening in Wisconsin. And to see a rabid it is unusual and it is early,” said Lieske Giese, the director of Eau Claire City-County Health Department.

Giese said if you have any kind of physical contact with a bat you should call the health department and get medical attention.

“Physical contact being scratched, being bitten, if you're unsure and you think you had physical contact, or your child did. If a bat was in a child's room and they were sleeping and you don't know there was contact, then even we want to hear from you,” Giese said.

Rabies is a viral disease that most often comes from nocturnal critters.

“About less than 5% of bats are rabid, but that's a high percentage. If it's not treated it really does result in someone dying,” Geise said.

If there's a bat swooping around your home?

Who are you going to call? Animal control!

“If a bat is out during the day, that's usually an issue. Bats are usually sleeping during the day and if they're out and low to the ground, that's usually a sign they should be checked for rabies,” said Officer Bonnie Bertrang, the supervisor of the Eau Claire Police Department Animal Control.

Eau Claire Animal Control said it gets lots of bat calls to homes along the Chippewa River trail.

“They seem to stick kind of by the river and also some of the student housing and the older homes,” Bertrang said.

29 rabid bats were found last year in Wisconsin.

Bertrang said up to three of those were in Eau Claire.

What should you do if you’re going to catch one on your own?

“We don't hit them or hit them or crush with a tennis racket because once they're crushed, we can't test them,” Bertrang said.

She said use an ice cream pail to catch it and turn it in, then sterilize whatever touched the bat.

Testing from the state is needed to prove that the bat has rabies so you can get the proper treatment if you came in contact with one.

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