The Madison County Health Department wants to remind the public to be aware of the potential for exposure to rabies from infected animals.
Public Health Administrator Doug King said bats are the most common source of potential infection in the state, and exposures from bats tend to be more frequent during the summer months, especially July and August. The disease can also be found in other wild animals, including raccoons, skunks, foxes, and coyotes.
This year, 27 bats have been found in 14 Illinois counties. There have been five rabid bats each in Kankakee and Lake counties, four in Cook County, and three in McHenry County. Rabies has also been found in bats in Bureau, Clark, DeKalb, Macon, McLean, Peoria, Rock Island, Sangamon, Wayne, and Will counties.
“Rabies is a fatal but preventable disease,” Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Sameer Vohra said
Vohra said its important that Illinois residents know how to prevent rabies exposure to protect themselves.
“Rabies can be prevented in a number of ways including vaccinating pets, being cautious around wildlife, and seeking medical care immediately after a potential exposure,” Vohra said. “If exposed, please seek medical attention immediately.”
Rabies is a deadly virus that affects the brain and nervous system. People can get rabies from being bitten by an infected animal. Rabies can also be contracted when saliva from a rabid animal comes into contact with a person’s eyes, nose, mouth, or an open wound. If someone wakes up to find a bat in the room, that is also considered an exposure even if they cannot identify a bite.
A bat’s teeth are small, so someone who has been bitten by a bat may not know it, or may be unable to communicate it (for example, very small children).
King said it’s important that if you discover a bat in your home, you should avoid killing or releasing it; instead, immediately contact Madison County Animal Care and Control or the Health Department to determine appropriate the next steps.
If you have been exposed to rabies, preventive treatment, known as PEP, is necessary. But if the bat or wild animal can be safely captured and tested and the test comes back negative, no preventive medication is required. If you have been bitten by any wild animal, seek immediate medical attention.