IONIA, Mich. (WOOD) — Michigan health officials are reminding residents to be cautious around wild animals after an influx in reports of rabid bats.
The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services says the number of bats that tested positive for rabies so far this year is more than double last year’s count, at 22 confirmed cases. In 2017, state officials had confirmed rabies in nine Michigan bats during the same time last year.
The highest case counts this year are in Ingham and Oakland counties, with four each. In West Michigan, Ionia County had a one confirmed case of a rabid bat.
Rabies is spread through the bite or scratch of an infected animal. Bats and skunks are the most common carriers. Of the 38 confirmed cases of rabies in Michigan animals last year, 35 involved bats, two involved skunks and one involved a cat.
Health officials say there’s normally an uptick in reported bat encounters between May and September because bats are more active then.
The health department urges pet owners to vaccinate cats, dogs and ferrets and livestock against rabies. Petting zoo animals should also be treated.
The health department says all bats are assumed to have rabies unless testing proves otherwise. Health officials test animals for rabies only if the deadly disease is suspected and humans were exposed.
Suspicious bats should be captured so their brain and spinal column remain intact for testing. Dead bats should be kept cool in a refrigerator.
Bats should be captured using thick work gloves, placing a container over the creature when it lands, slipping a piece of cardboard underneath the container to serve as a base, then taping it securely closed. After securing the bat, contact your local health department.