ALLEGAN, Mich. (WOOD) — The Allegan County Health Department is warning the public after confirmed reports of a bat with rabies. This is the first reported case of the disease in the county this year.

Since 2019, the health department said it has seen a total of six confirmed cases of rabies found in animals.

“This bat was found within the home and the homeowners brought the bat to … Allegan County Health Department for rabies testing,” explained Lindsay Maunz, public health planning & preparedness manager with the health department.

As the weather continues to get colder, the department said now is the time for people to “bat proof” their homes.

“If an individual chooses to bat proof their home on their own, you’re going to want to examine your home for any holes that might allow bats to enter,” said Maunz. “So, you’d want to caulk any openings larger than a size of a dime. Use window screens, chimney caps, and draft guards beneath doors to attics.”

For those who already have bats in their home, the Health Department recommends checking where they exit at dusk. Prevent them from re-entering by loosely hanging clear plastic sheeting or bird netting over the areas where they exit.

The Health Department also stresses keeping vaccines up-to-date, especially for pets.

“This not only protects them if they get exposed to an animal with the disease, and prevents them from becoming ill, but also just that protection for you, as well from becoming exposed,” said Maunz. “For residents in Allegan County, or incidences that happen in Allegan County, if you’ve been bitten, scratched, or exposed to a bat, please report that to Allegan County Health Department.”

Residents outside of Allegan County should contact their local health departments. Health officials also said if you are bit, wash the infected area immediately with soap and water and seek medical attention.

Lastly, try to keep pets inside, to limit their exposure to any other animals that may be infected.