HEALTH

State confirms rabies found in three Utah bats

Jun 30, 2022, 3:04 PM
Bats are the leading cause of rabies deaths in people in the United States. Rabid bats have been fo...
Bats are the leading cause of rabies deaths in people in the United States. Rabid bats have been found in all 49 continental states. Only Hawaii is rabies-free. (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
(Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

SALT LAKE CITY — The state of Utah confirmed on Thursday three cases of rabies so far this summer. The cases were found in bats in Salt Lake County, Weber County, and Washington County.

Charla Haley from the Utah Department of Health and Human Services said, “The location really doesn’t matter. There is a risk when being around any wild animals regardless of location.”

All of the cases included direct contact with a human and/or a pet.

“The humans received preventive vaccines, and the dogs received boosters and a 45-day home quarantine because they were up-to-date on their rabies vaccinations,” a news release said.

“The rabies vaccine is extremely effective that it’s like the thing that we recommend the absolute most for people as their top line of defense, keeping their pets up to date on their vaccines,” Hannah Rettler an epidemiologist with the Utah Department of Health and Human Services told KSL. “So they still do need a booster. It’s kind of just like any other vaccine, it gives great protection, but not 100%.  So that’s why boosters are needed.”

Contact with infected bats is the leading cause of human rabies deaths in Utah.  A news release said about 15 rabid animals are found in Utah every year.

Last year, 5 people in the U.S. died as a result of rabies exposure.

The Department of Health said any bat exposure should be reported and taken seriously because the animal’s teeth and claws are so small that it’s difficult to feel or see a scratch or bite.

Rettler said, “A lot of these cases were a dog brought a bat into the house from the backyard. I think, most of these areas were suburban and that tends to be what we see.”

Anyone who is infected may feel symptoms similar to the flu. They can then progress to anxiety, confusion, abnormal behavior, and delirium.

Once clinical signs of rabies appear in a person, the disease is nearly always fatal, health officials said.

Report any suspected rabies case, in a human or animal, to your local health department as soon as possible.

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State confirms rabies found in three Utah bats