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Rabies testing on the rise, NC health officials say

Posted September 9, 2013
Updated September 10, 2013

— State health officials are warning the public to stay away from wild animals as more animals have come in for rabies testing this year compared with the past five years. While the reason is not definitive, state and local experts say the increase may be related to weather - the increased moisture and lower summer temperatures.

“So far in 2013, there have been 17 rabid bats identified in North Carolina. On average, more than 90 percent of domestically acquired human rabies cases in the United States are linked to bats,” said Kirsti Clifford, a spokeswoman with the state Department of Health and Human Services. “As a point of information, we actually have had far more positive tests (155) this year in raccoons.”

In Durham County, health officials didn't report any cases of rabies last year. This year, they reported 10 – eight raccoons, one skunk and one possum. Last year in Cumberland County, health officials reported six rabies cases for the entire year, two of which were bats. This year, Cumberland officials have reported 14 cases, half of which were bats.

For the past 12 years, Al Richards has worked with Critter Control, helping homeowners with bat problems. On Monday, he helped Sharon Carstens get them out of her Raleigh house.

“Where the louvers are, they're up there, and they just swoop out and go fly,” Carstens said.

“There's about, probably, 30 to 50 bats in there," Richards added.

Bat Rabies testing on the rise, health officials say

Critter Control says they've had about 20 percent more calls compared with last year regarding bats.

“We’re seeing a lot of colonies here lately,” Richard said. “The biggest issue with bats is the rabies.”

State health officials say residents should call their local animal control center immediately if they suspect an animal has rabies. Pet owners must get their dogs and cats vaccinated against rabies, as required by state law. Pet owners are subject to a fine of $100 for each unvaccinated dog or cat. Pets must be vaccinated when they reach the age of four months.

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  • Orange RN Sep 10, 8:54 a.m.

    This article misses a major point: bats are important allies to help us control insects, they eat mosquitoes and are a big benefit to farmers. They are becoming endangered due to habitat loss and a disease that kills them, but not us: White Nose Syndrome. Only a low percentage of bats may be rabid (less than 2% http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/01/110131133323.htm).

    BUT they are wild animals, there is a risk of rabies, and we do need to avoid direct contact with them. The take home message is: leave them alone where they roost in the wild, bat houses and roosts are fine outside of your living space; take steps such as screens to exclude them from your living space and if you find them sick or injured outside, do not handle them. Info on exclusion methods: http://batcon.org/index.php/bats-a-people/bats-in-buildings/subcategory/69.html