ALLEGAN, Mich. (WOOD) — The Allegan County Health Department is reminding residents to vaccinate their pets and bat-proof their homes after a bat tested positive for rabies.

The virus is found in the saliva of infected animals and is spread through bites and scratches. The health department is asking that anyone who has been bitten, scratched or exposed to a bat fill out an animal bite reporting form.

The health department is recommending everyone take the following steps to protect themselves from rabies:

  • Have pets vaccinated regularly. This will protect them if exposed to animals with the disease and prevent them from becoming ill and infecting humans.
  • Do not handle stray, wild, or dead animals.
  • Keep pets indoors or supervised to limit their exposure to wild animals that may be rabid.
  • Do not feed, or put water for, pets outside.
  • Keep garbage securely covered, as these items may attract wild or stray animals.

Anyone who has been bitten, scratched or exposed to a bat is asked to:

  • Wash the area with soap and water
  • Seek medical attention
  • Report the bite using the health department’s animal bite reporting form.

The health department said most bats leave to migrate in the fall or winter, so it’s a good time to bat-proof your home. To do so:

  • Examine your home for holes that might allow bats entry. Caulk any openings larger than a dime. Use window screens, chimney caps, and draft guards beneath doors to attics. Fill electrical and plumbing holes with stainless steel wool, caulk, or other material rated for pest exclusion. Ensure that all doors to the outside close tightly.
  • If you already have bats in your home, observe where they exit at dusk. Make note of how many there are. Prevent them from coming back by loosely hanging clear plastic sheeting or bird netting over the areas where they exit. This lets any remaining bats crawl out and leave but prevents them from re-entering. When all the bats are gone, the openings can be permanently sealed.

This is the first confirmed rabies case in Allegan County this year. The county says it has seen six confirmed cases since 2019.

For more information on rabies, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s website or the state’s website.