Written by DJ Becker –
OAKHURST – A third little brown bat in Madera County has tested positive for rabies, according to authorities. This one was found in a backyard on Evergreen Drive off Road 426 in Oakhurst.
Madera County Animal Services Director Kirsten Gross said the bat was found still alive but died shortly after the resident’s three dogs had pounced on and played with it.
A rabid bat was found lying near the track at Yosemite High School on May 24, and another in a back yard in Madera on May 14.
“The downside in this case is the residents hadn’t kept all the dogs’ rabies vaccinations current,” said Gross. “Only one dog had been recently vaccinated. The other two dogs are now quarantined for six months to be observed for any signs of rabies.
“It is pretty unusual and scary to have a third bat test positive in about 60 days in the area, but I think more bats are also being found and tested as residents become more aware of the potentially fatal human disease. The only protection is to vaccinate your dogs, cats and even horses against this fatal virus.”
Rabies is deadly neurological viral disease in animals and humans that is passed through saliva and causes swelling of the brain. It often presents in animals with unusual behavioral symptoms such as aggression, confusion, biting, excessive salivation, tremors, etc. Any cat, dog or person coming into direct contact and is scratched or bitten by a bat or other animal carrying the rabies virus is then also potentially exposed.
Should a person become scratched or bitten by a rabid animal, prompt medical evaluation and treatment with an antibody vaccine is necessary and prevents the disease from progressing in most cases.
“Rabies is rare, but it’s a reminder that this is serious and frightening disease because there is no treatment or cure,” said Gross. “Once the disease progresses in an animal or in a human, it’s fatal. The primary carriers of this deadly disease are bats, skunks, and foxes or raccoons. People can contract rabies from their domestic pets, which is why it’s important to vaccinate your dogs and cats against rabies.”
Gross also cautioned people against approaching or trying to help wildlife that appears to be ill or is acting unusually, and she said to call police or animal control instead.
“That’s best left to the animal control professionals to handle.”
California Department of Public Health reported 226 confirmed animal cases of rabies statewide for 2016, and 97 percent, or 220 of those, were in wild animals. Bats represented 78 percent of those cases, skunks 14 percent, and foxes 5 percent, according the report.
Of the six remaining 2016 rabies cases, three were in domestic dogs and three cases were documented in domestic or feral cats, after those animals were thought to have come into contact with infected wild animals. One of the cases reportedly involved an indoor cat, which the owner claimed did not go outside.
Four fatal cases of rabies in humans have been reported in California in the last 10 years, the last case being in 2012 in Contra Costa County.
“Protect your pets and your family by getting your pets vaccinated and keep them current for rabies,” said Gross. “State law requires all dogs three months old and over be vaccinated for rabies, and then be kept up to date with those vaccinations. It’s also important for our community, as dogs or cats are much more likely to come in contact with rabid wildlife than is a human being. Our next local shot clinic is coming up on Saturday, August 4th, at the Madera Fairgrounds.”
Rabies vaccinations are required by law to be administered by a licensed veterinarian, and are offered at all local vets.
A low-cost rabies vaccine clinic is held the first Saturday of each month, 10 a.m. to noon, at the Madera District Fairgrounds and is sponsored by The Friends of The Madera Animal Shelter volunteers. Rabies shots are $10. The Parvo/ Distemper combination shot is $15. All proceeds benefit the animals at the Madera County Animal Shelter.
A reduced-price, walk-in shot clinic is also available at the HOPE Animal Foundation in Fresno at 5490 West Spruce Avenue, Monday – Thursday from 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Rabies shots are $15. The Parvo/ Distemper combination shot is $15.
Editor’s note: The bat in the photo is the same species as the rabid bat. It is not the animal found in Oakhurst.