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Rabid bats found in May highest in 20 years

Four bats tested positive for rabies in May, the highest number for the month in 20 years.

Health officials found four bats with rabies since May 1. That's the highest number of bats identified in the state for the month of May in 20 years.

The findings come after a rabid bat bit a member of the Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity at the University of Washington in late May. Officials now believe multiple people have been affected. The bat bit the student upon picking it up. He then brought the bat back to the fraternity before handing it over to the UW emergency department.

Watch: Rabid bat bites someone near Husky Stadium

Health officials routinely test for rabid bats during the summer months. The Department of Health is advising people to avoid all contact with bats and other wild animals. If you do have to touch a bat, try to safely capture it and keep it away from other people. Call your local health department for next steps.

Rabies can be life-threatening to humans but treatable if caught quickly and before symptoms appear. Anyone who has been bitten by a bat should seek medical help immediately.

It's also important that you vaccinate your pets for rabies. All mammals can be infected with the virus, but bats are the most common. In 2017, 22 bats had rabies. That's up from 2016 when 20 bats with rabies were identified. The Washington State Public Health Laboratories test between 200 and 300 bats per year.

Watch: King County Health on the rabid bat incident at UW

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The virus is found in the saliva of an affected animal and is usually transmitted by a bite or scratch. Learn more about rabies and bats from the King County Health Department.

Watch: How to capture a bat in your home