The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services announced Monday that there has been a significant increase in positive tests for rabies. How significant? At this time last year, the state had only nine bats that had tested positive, according to a press release. But as of yesterday, there were 22 confirmed rabies cases in bats in the state. There were also two confirmed cases in skunks.
Lynn Sutfin, a spokeswoman for MDHHS, said by email there have been four bats identified with rabies in Ingham county, and one in Eaton county.
As a result state health officials are “urging” residents to take precautions for themselves and others. Here’s what they are recommending:
Avoid contact with wild animals. Do not keep wild animals as pets and do not try to rehabilitate wild animals yourself. Wild animals can carry rabies without looking sick.
If a wild animal appears sick, report it to the Department of Natural Resources online or at 517-336-5030.
If you are bitten or scratched by an animal, seek immediate medical attention and alert the local health department. A directory of local public health departments is available at Malph.org.
If you find a bat in your home, safely confine or collect the bat if possible and contact your local health department to determine if it should be tested for rabies. More information on how to collect a bat safely can be found on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s website.
If you are unable or would prefer not to confine or collect a bat yourself, you may consider hiring a bat/wildlife removal service.
Protect your pets by getting them vaccinated against rabies. Even cats that live indoors and never go outside can encounter a bat that gets inside the home.
If your animal is bitten or scratched by a wild animal, or if you believe they have had unsupervised contact with wildlife, contact your veterinarian as soon as possible. Even if your pet is currently vaccinated against rabies, additional actions may need to be taken to prevent them from becoming infected. If possible, safely confine or capture the wild animal without touching it and contact your local animal control officer or veterinarian, as the animal may need to be tested for rabies.
So what is rabies? From the MDHHS press release:
Rabies is a viral disease of mammals that is transmitted through the bite or scratch of an infected animal. Bats and skunks are the most common carriers of rabies in Michigan. In 2017, there were 38 cases of rabies in animals in Michigan, including 35 bats, two skunks and one cat.