Three bats have tested positive for rabies in San Luis Obispo County since June of 2017, the county Public Health Department said on Monday.
The number is “higher than usual,” because the department usually sees either one or zero confirmed cases of rabies in bats per year, according to a department news release.
Two of the bats were found in Atascadero and one was found in Cambria, the department said. All three were brought to the Public Health Laboratory for testing after residents reported seeing a sick or dead bat to either county Animal Services or Pacific Wildlife Care.
A bat may have rabies or another disease if it is active during the day, unable to fly or allows itself to be approached by a person, the department said. The only way to confirm a case of rabies is to have it tested in a lab.
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Rabies is a viral disease often caused by the bite of an infected animal. It can be fatal if not treated right away but is preventable with prompt treatment, the department said.
Locally, most cases of bats biting people happened when a person tried to capture or rescue a bat they thought was injured or sick, the department said. Bats may also bite if they become trapped in a house or building or if they are disturbed by people.
The Public Health Department urges everyone to be cautious and avoid contact with bats.
If you find a bat that appears to be injured, sick or dead, or if you are bitten by a bat, call Animal Services at 805-781-4400 so the bat can be collected and tested for rabies.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, contact with a bat is the most common way for people in the United States to contract rabies.
Here are tips from the Public Health Department to avoid getting rabies or another disease from a bat:
▪ Do not approach a bat, touch it, or try to capture or rescue it. This includes bats that appear healthy, bats that appear injured or sick, and bats that appear dead.
▪ Teach children to avoid contact with bats or other unfamiliar animals, even if the animals appear friendly or need help.
▪ If you are bitten by a bat or another unfamiliar animal, wash the wound thoroughly with soap and seek medical attention immediately.