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Health officials offer tips on rabies protection

Published: Monday, May 19, 2014 11:06 p.m. CDT • Updated: Monday, May 19, 2014 11:09 p.m. CDT

WOODSTOCK – McHenry County Department of Health officials wish to remind residents that bat season is here, so it’s time to think about protecting your family and pets from rabies exposure.

If a bat is found in the home, contain the bat in a room by closing the door or placing a blanket on it and immediately calling Animal Control at 815-459-6222.

In order to test bats for rabies, it is important they be in good condition (i.e. head is intact) – either alive or recently deceased, health officials said.

Only in cases of confirmed exposure will bats be submitted for testing, according to Illinois Department of Public Health protocol. Specimens in good condition that test negative for rabies eliminate the need for rabies treatment following human exposure.

So far in 2014, no bats have tested positive for rabies in McHenry County.  Last year, the McHenry County Department of Health reported two rabid bats, with the Illinois Department of Public Health reporting 55 statewide.

The best way to avoid rabies is to avoid exposure. For questions about exposure or to determine the need for treatment, call the health department's Communicable Disease Program at 815-334-4500.

Rabies is a deadly disease caused by a virus that attacks the central nervous system and can only be confirmed in a laboratory.

Keeping cats and dogs up to date with vaccinations will not only keep them from getting rabies but also provide a barrier of protection for you if your animal is bitten by a rabid animal.

Most bats leave in the fall or winter to hibernate, so these are the best times to "bat-proof" your home.

A fact sheet on bat exclusion can be viewed at www.mcdh.info.  

Residents are encouraged to take a “hands off” approach to wild animals to reduce their risk of exposure. Children should also be educated about the dangers. For more on rabies, visit the Illinois Department of Public Health website at http://www.idph.state.il.us/public/hb/hbrabies.htm

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