A spike in rabies infection discovered in bats already this year emphasizes the need for extreme caution if these winged creatures are seen during the day. Public health officials warn of the dangers of handling bats, especially if they appear sick or dead, and that any other animal--such as cats or dogs--catching or killing a sick bat may contract the deadly virus.
Any bat seen during the day is apt to be sick and ought to be avoided and reported to the local animal control agency immediately, experts say. "Bats … will instinctively separate themselves from the colony when they are ill," said Dawn Sylvester-Dunn of Victorville, California, who cares for sick and injured bats."It’s a species-preservation instinct.”
Rabies is a viral infection which targets the nervous system and the brain. It is only spread to humans by infected animals-- most often through the animal biting or scratching the person or by the animal's saliva contacting an open wound or cut on a human's skin. "Once a human gets rabies, the fatality rate is almost 100 percent," said Dr. Maxwell Ohikhuare, Public Health Officer for San Bernardino County.
But bats are not the only source of the deadly rabies virus that should be avoided, according to officials. There is also an alarming increase in the number of reports of rabies traced to contact with feral cats.
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RECENT RABIES REPORTS IN CALIFORNIA
On June 4, 2012, at about 4:30 p.m. a man carried a box containing a live bat into police headquarters in Chino, California, a San Bernardino suburb located 35 miles from the city of Los Angeles. He told officers he found the bat in his warehouse, according to Linda Reich, Interim Community Services Director. The man left without giving his name or any other information and Chino officials immediately put out an alert to locate him when laboratory tests on the bat showed it was rabid.
Fliers were distributed throughout the community and TV and radio stations broadcast the alarming plea throughout the greater Los Angeles and Inland Valley area. "Hopefully, somebody will know the person who dropped off the bat," said Dr. Ohikhuare. Once the symptoms of rabies develop – including sickness, aggression and hallucinations – the virus has spread to the brain and is nearly always fatal.
Professor Tom Solomon, of the Institute of Infection and Global Health at the University of Liverpool, states, “Almost everyone who gets bitten but doesn’t seek help will die within a few weeks of the symptoms starting to show.”
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Another rabid bat was found Friday in Devore, in San Bernardino County, bringing that county’s total to six, compared with 11 for the entire 12 months of 2011. In adjoining Riverside County, three rabid bats have been found this year, including two this week, Animal Services spokesman John Welsh told The Press Enterprise.
On June 6, a 55-year-old Riverside man was bitten by a rabid bat while cleaning a pool and is undergoing treatment. A dog may also have been bitten by a rabid bat in Riverside with which it was playing. The dog had a current rabies vaccination, but will still be quarantined for six months, Welsh said.
"While not extraordinary to find rabies in bats, we believe our cases, coupled with the recent cases in San Bernardino County, make it a good time to remind the public to be cautious around bats," Riverside County chief veterinarian Allan Drusys told KCBS-TV.
On April 22, 2012, the Los Angeles Post reported that a Park Ranger found a bat near the Laguna Niguel Regional Park in Orange County. The bat was on a walkway near La Paz Road. Orange County Health Officials stated that the rabies test came back positive and this is the second rabid bat in this area that has tested positive this year.http://www.thelosangelespost.org/laguna-niguel-park-ranger-finds-rabid-bat/
Bats are the main carrier of rabies in wild animals in California, according to Dr. Drusys. But, officials state that cats are the most common domestic animals with rabies in the United States.
RABID RACCOON CONNECTED TO FERAL CATS IN FLORIDA
On April 25, 2012, WAVY.com reported animal control officials in Virginia Beach, Florida, believe "a rabid raccoon which attacked a man is connected to another animal--feral cats. Officers said someone in the area is leaving food out for the cats, and it's also drawing raccoons.”
Terence Herrera, a Virginia Beach auto mechanic, was working under a truck when he heard a strange noise. He looked over to investigate and was staring eye-to-eye with a raccoon. "I got up and started running. [I] looked behind me, the thing jumped on my back and started biting me," Herrera exclaimed.
Herrera was bitten on his arm and shoulder. He was taken to the hospital, where he received more than a dozen shots for rabies and for treatment of his wounds, according to the report.
Virginia Beach Animal Control caught the raccoon and it tested positive for rabies. "If that animal is infected, I'm sure that there are others around here that are," Herrera said. “Whoever is feeding them [the cats] should stop," Herrera stated. http://www.wavy.com/dpp/news/local_news/va_beach/vb-man-bitten-by-rabid-raccoon
RABID FOX, BELIEVED INFECTED BY FERAL CATS, ATTACKS GEORGIA MAN
On May 22, 2012, Animal control officers set traps around a Lee County, Georgia, home to catch feral cats they believe infected a fox involved in a rabid attack on Willie Coleman two days before.
Coleman asked for help getting rid of the cats after he was attacked by the rabid fox while puttiing out food for cats he has been feeding for over ten years. He said he eventually got away from the fox and called 911. When a Lee County deputy arrived the fox attacked him too. Both men are undergoing a series of shots to protect them from rabies.
Coleman goes back for his second treatment tomorrow and he says he's not looking forward to it. "…Oh that hurt," he said. Environmental Health director Dewayne Tanner says the treatment is a four to five shot series that can be pretty pricey.
Vaccines required for dogs since the 1940's have helped keep rabies out of the canine population, but feral cats continue to be a problem. "Cats are the most common domestic animals with rabies in the United States... a reminder not to feed or come into contact with feral cats," said officials. http://www.walb.com/story/18597676/man-bitten-by-rabid-fox-ask-for-traps?clienttype=printable
FERAL CAT SCRATCH SOURCE OF RABIES IN 8-YEAR-OLD CALIFORNIA GIRL
On May 6, 2011, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed the first-ever case of human rabies in Humboldt County, California, when an eight-year-old girl developed encephalitis—brain inflammation--and tests revealed she had rabies which she got from a "feral or wild cat near her school when it scratched her on the arm during recess." http://www.opposingviews.com/i/feral-cats-may-have-caused-human-rabies-in-california
FERAL CATS CAUSE RABIES OUTBREAK IN NEW MEXICO
A rabies outbreak in Carlsbad, New Mexico, caused the suspension of the Noah's Ark Animal Shelter's TNR program (trap/neuter/return) in which feral cats are trapped, sterilized, vaccinated and released. The origin of the outbreak was traced to a rabid skunk that had been in a “tangle” with a group of feral cats returned to the wild under the animal shelter's TNR program, according to USA Today on April 15, 2012.
In addition, at least a dozen residents of Eddy County have been forced to get rabies shots, as a precaution against the deadly virus spreading to humans and other animals. Sadly, more than 30 pet dogs have been euthanized because of exposure, according to officials. http://www.opposingviews.com/i/society/animal-rights/feral-cats-cause-rabies-outbreak-new-mexico
TNR (TRAP, NEUTER, RELEASE) PROGRAMS AND RABIES
With more activists (also called "trappers/feeders") involved in Trap/Neuter/Return (TNR) programs which alter and release wild/feral (aka, “community cats”) outdoors across the nation, any unknown cat should be avoided. Outdoor cats also are more likely to be infected by catching/eating a rabid bat. All pet cats should be kept indoors, experts advise.
REPORT ANY SCRATCH OR BITE BY FERAL CATS OR ANY WILD ANIMAL IMMEDIATELY
Any scratch or bite by a strange or wild animal should be reported and examined by a medical professional immediately, according to experts. Although cats in TNR programs are supposed to receive rabies shots before release, the colonized feeding attracts other unvaccinated cats and wildlife to the easy food source, and can result in transmission of the highly contagious rabies virus.
RABID ANIMAL BEHAVIOR
Officials warn that rabies can cause abnormally aggressive or unusually tame behavior in infected animals.
Also read: RISE OF RABIES? WOMAN BITTEN BY DOG IN INDIA DIES IN LONDON http://www.opposingviews.com/i/society/animal-rights/rise-rabies-woman-bitten-dog-india-dies-london