Officials with the Maricopa County Department of Public Health are reminding residents to stay away from bats after two found in the Valley within the past week tested positive for rabies.
Two people in the West Valley are going through post-rabies exposure treatment after handling a bat that tested positive for rabies earlier this week.
“Never, never, never touch bats is a good rule of thumb to follow,” said Craig Levy, Epizoologist for the Maricopa County Department of Public Health. “Any bat on the ground is more likely to be rabid."
The most recent case was a rabid bat found crawling around the parking lot of Costco near Cave Creek and Beardsley roads on Wednesday. Officials are asking that anyone that was at this Costco on June 13 and had possible exposure to this bat, to seek health care immediately. There are no known exposures to humans at this time, health officials say.
However, it is believed that a cat may have had exposure to the bat during this incident, and Public Health officials are working with the county's Animal Care and Control unit to try and locate the cat.
Officials said that animals exposed to rabies do not become infectious right away and that there is still time to locate the cat before it poses a health risk to the public.
Officials also want to remind dog and cat owners to keep their pets vaccinated against rabies.
Maricopa County Health officials recommend the following precautions against rabies:
- Vaccinate all dogs and cats against rabies. Pets should be kept on a leash or in a fenced yard.
- Keep people and pets away from wild animals. Do not pick up, touch, or feed wild or unfamiliar animals, especially sick or wounded ones. If someone has been bitten or scratched or has had contact with the animal, report it immediately to animal control or health officials.
- Do not “rescue” seemingly abandoned young wild animals. Usually, the mother will return. If the mother is dead or has not returned in many hours, call the Arizona Game and Fish Department.
- Spay or neuter your pets to help reduce the number of unwanted pets that may not be properly cared for or vaccinated regularly.
- Take precautions when camping, hunting or fishing. Avoid sleeping on the open ground without the protection of a closed tent or camper. Keep pets on a leash and do not allow them to wander.
- Do not disturb roosting bats. They will usually leave after nightfall.
- If you find a bat on the ground, don’t touch it. Report the bat and its location to your local animal control officer or health department. If a person or pet has come into contact with the bat, it will need to be tested for rabies. Place a box over the bat to contain it. Be careful not to damage the bat in any way since it must be intact for rabies testing.
For more information about rabies in Maricopa County, click here.