Health officials in Jackson County, Ore. say a bat found flying in a Medford house tested positive for rabies. Health officials didn't say where and when the bat was found.
In January, the state adopted a requirement that dogs, cats and ferrets be vaccinated but some questioned the need to vaccinated indoor-only or elderly pets.
Our Pet Dish vet, Dr. Cary Waterhouse of Lake Union Veterinary Clinic, says bats getting into a home are the textbook example of why it's important to vaccinate ALL animals (dogs, cats, ferrets) against rabies.
He says we need to remind ourselves as responsible pet owners that:
1) Rabies is alive and well in the Northwest. We do not have the 'reservoir' of rabies in the raccoon and skunk population like in the south and eastern US, but we have a bat population capable of transmitting this virus to people and pets. Often, bite wounds from an encounter with a bat go unnoticed -- they have very small and very sharp teeth. ANY interaction with a bat needs to be reported to appropriate medical and public health authorities.
2) 'Indoor only' animals are at risk as well -- both because a door left open, or torn window screen may be the only separation from the outside world for many pets, and because the rabies 'vector' (bats) in this area are perfectly happy joining us in our homes (via doors, windows, and chimneys)
3) Rabies is a zoonotic disease -- it can spread from animals (wildlife and pets) to people. While post exposure treatment is available (and quite effective), once a person begins showing signs of the virus, it is (with VERY rare exception) always fatal. Post exposure treatment does NOT exist for our pets, however.
4) Vaccination remains the number one safeguard for protecting our pets (and ultimately, ourselves) from the transmission of rabies. Updating this vaccine on a schedule in accordance with the vaccine manufacturer's guidelines is extremely important (sometimes on an annual basis, sometimes every 3 years). This is the law in many cities and counties in Washington. As of 1/1/2012, the state adopted this policy as law.
5) IF a pet dog, cat, ferret is suspected (or known) to have had contact with a rabid animal (this includes any contact with a bat), vaccinated animals are treated much differently compared to unvaccinated animals. In most cases, vaccinated pets will be put on 'watch' in the home for a period of time, while unvaccinated animals could be confiscated or euthanized.
The take-home messages here are that (1) rabies is a public health concern, and (2) vaccination is the key to preventing this disease