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State officials remind residents after first rabid bat of 2021 identified

The Illinois Department of Public Health has identified the first rabid bat of 2021 in Illinois.

Dr. Ngozi Ezike, director of the department, said only a small percentage of bats get rabies but a bite from a rabid bat can be fatal. She advises people to avoid touching bats and recommends sealing up any openings in your house where bats can get it.

Dr. Will Sander, assistant professor of veterinary medicine and preventative medicine and public health director at the University of Illinois, said bats can bite people who are sleeping. They have very tiny teeth and people may not be aware that they have been bitten. Bats are very afraid of people and normally stay far away from them.

If you find a bat in your living room, that bat may be sick and disoriented, he warns.

“Err on the side of caution, because rabies is pretty much one hundred percent fatal if you get clinical signs and get sick. We want you to get treatment before you develop those signs,” Sander said.

If you find a bat in your house, the best thing to do is put on leather gloves and protective clothing and trap the bat in a box so that you can bring it in for testing. If you don’t want to catch the bat yourself, call wildlife control or a wildlife management company and have them come get the bat.

“You can’t tell by looking at a bat if it has rabies,” Sander said.

Laboratory testing is the only way to determine if a bat is rabid.

When people find a bat lying on the ground, their first impulse can be to pick the bat up and try to help it.

“That is the way people get exposed,” Sander said.

Sander said bats are “fantastic creatures.” He said they get a bad rap.

“We don’t want people to be afraid of bats,” Sander said. “They are great for the ecosystem. They eat mosquitoes and other bugs that bother us. We just want to be cautious about how we interact with them.”

Sander highly recommends bat houses that you can buy at garden centers and put in your yard.

“Having a bat house is great. We want to have more bats. They add to our biodiversity and they help with pest control. I fully support bat houses,” Sander said.

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