The Nevada Department of Agriculture Animal Disease Laboratory has confirmed three cases of rabies in bats — one in Washoe County and two in Clark County, according to a release from the NDA.
Bats are common throughout Nevada, with their activity increasing between May and October. While other species of wildlife can carry rabies, bats are the most common source of human and domestic animal transmission, making it important to keep pets vaccinated and ensure no contact is made with wildlife.
“It’s important to ensure individuals and domestic animals do not come in contact with bats,” Laura Morrow, NDA Animal Disease Lab supervisor, said in the release. “If you or your animals have had contact with any bats, contact your local healthcare or veterinary provider immediately.”
Any bats, dead or alive, that may have been in contact with people or domestic animals should be reported immediately. It is important that individuals contact the NDA Animal Disease Lab or their local animal control agency before attempting to pick up a bat. If an individual is asked to collect the bat for testing, they should carefully follow all instructions provided by the agency including using heavy gloves to avoid potential bites.
The Animal Disease Laboratory confirms between 10 and 20 cases of bat rabies each year. To date in 2021, the Animal Disease Lab has tested 25 bats, and three were positive for rabies.
“The only way to confirm rabies in any animal is through testing of postmortem brain tissue,” said NDA State Veterinarian Dr. Amy Mitchell. “Rabies is a fatal, but preventable disease. It is important for all animal owners to work with their local veterinarians to keep animals up to date on vaccinations, to protect both the animals and their owners.”
In Nevada, rabies vaccination is required for dogs, cats and ferrets. Animal owners are urged to have pets vaccinated against rabies and maintain a regular vaccination schedule. Indoor animals should still be vaccinated, as bats can enter and exit residences unnoticed.
Individuals can learn more about rabies and the proper steps to take with a possible exposure on the Center for Disease Control and Prevention website at cdc.gov/rabies, or through the Southern Nevada Health District or Washoe County Health Department.