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Bat flying in Chapel Hill home tests positive for rabies

Posted January 14, 2015

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— A bat found flying inside a Chapel Hill home last Friday has tested positive for rabies, marking the first case of rabies in Orange County this year. 

The county recorded 23 positive cases of rabies last year and 12 positive cases both in 2012 and 2013, according to Orange County Animal Services.

Animal control officials said they were called to the Chapel Hill home last Friday after the family reported seeing a bat flying around. Animal control removed the bat and had it tested, which confirmed the animal had rabies. 

Two family dogs inside the home were not exposed to the bat, and officials don't believe family members were exposed either. However, its unknown how long the bat had been in the house. 

“Awareness and prevention are always important, but especially given the current upswing in rabies cases in Orange County,” Animal Services Director Bob Marotto said in a statement. “It is important that people always report any incident involving a bat to Animal Services, even if no animal lives in the household.”

Of the few cases of rabies in humans in the United States in recent years, most have been traced to bats. If there is any possibility of exposure from a bat, it is critical that the bat be safely contained without human contact and that citizens immediately contact their animal control program.

If an incident involving a bat or other rabies concern occurs outside regular office hours, an animal control officer can be reached by calling 911.

The other dominant host species in this area is the raccoon. Other animals can contract rabies from a host species, a process known as the “spillover effect.” The other species that are most susceptible to getting rabies from raccoons are dogs and cats, groundhogs, foxes and skunks.

By law in North Carolina, dogs, cats and ferrets older than four months must have a current and valid rabies vaccination at all times. Orange County’s ordinance also requires that all pets wear a rabies vaccination tag. 

Pets with current rabies vaccinations that may have been exposed to rabies must be re-vaccinated within five days (120 hours) or they will be treated as unvaccinated pets. Unvaccinated pets that may have been exposed to rabies must either be destroyed or quarantined at a veterinary office for six months at the owner’s expense. 

Rabies can be transmitted through secondary exposure as well, so do not touch your animal without gloves if it has had any possible exposure to rabies. If a rabies suspect is alive, do not attempt to capture the animal. Keep visual contact with the animal until animal control arrives.

If you discover a bat inside your house, be sure not to release it, but do remove yourself and any animals from the area. Always call animal control immediately if you find a bat in your home even if there is no evidence of a bite.

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  • SomewhereLeftOfRTP Jan 14, 2015

    We found a bat on the road behaving strangely last year, trapped it under a box, and called Durham animal control. They came out promptly, but said they don't routinely test bats unless there was some human (or presumably pet) contact. I was a little disappointed, but I guess I'm not surprised, given tight budgets.