First Laboratory-Confirmed Rabid Bat Found in Washoe County

NDA encourages pet owners to maintain rabies vaccination schedules during summer

Sparks, Nev- The Nevada Department of Agriculture (NDA) reports the first laboratory-confirmed rabid bat in Washoe County. Bat rabies is endemic throughout Nevada and the NDA’s Animal Disease Laboratory (ADL) confirms between six and 20 bats per year, usually between the months of May and October. However, in recent years positive bats have been confirmed as early as February. 

Companion animal owners are urged to have all cats and dogs vaccinated against rabies and maintain a regular vaccination schedule. Indoor cats should also be vaccinated since bats can enter and exit residences without being noticed.

“If your cat or dog plays with a live bat in bright day light you know there is a problem,” says Dr. Michael Greenlee, Nevada’s State Veterinarian. “Pet and human exposure to bats, dead or alive should be reported to the appropriate animal control agency (city or county animal control), health department (Carson City, Washoe County, Southern Nevada Health District or the State Health Division for the rural counties) and the Animal Disease Laboratory (at 775-353-3718 or 3700) to facilitate testing”.  

Bats that have been in contact with people or domestic animals should be submitted for testing whenever possible. Even though the prevalence of the virus is estimated to be less than one percent in Nevada’s bat populations, between eight and 15 percent of the bats submitted to the ADL test positive for rabies. Availability of test results greatly reduces the need for post exposure prophylaxis in humans and treatment and quarantine in animals. Bats and other sick wildlife should only be handled while using appropriate personal protective equipment.

Even though Nevada is currently considered free of terrestrial rabies (rabies in skunks, raccoons and foxes) surveillance in wildlife species is ongoing. Rabies is currently considered an emerging disease. Bat rabies has been shown to jump the species barrier into skunks and foxes in neighboring Arizona within the last decade, a previously unrecognized possibility.  California and Arizona both have had significant levels of terrestrial rabies for decades and the NDA together with County Health Departments, Animal Control Agencies, USDA wildlife services and the Nevada Department of Wildlife have conducted active surveillance for years.

Despite great advances in human medicine rabies is still considered an invariably fatal disease in humans once clinical symptoms appear. For further information please visit the Center for Disease Control website .