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Utah reports first rabid bat of 2024 season, prompting public health alert

The Utah Department of Health announced that the first bat to test positive for rabies this season was discovered earlier this month, prompting authorities to warn the public about the dangers of encountering infected wildlife.

Officials said the bat was found in Washington County, but rabid bats can be found anywhere in the state.

Bats are the most common carriers of the rabies virus in Utah, but the disease can be transmitted by any infected animal through bites, scratches, or saliva. Rabies is a potentially fatal viral disease that attacks the nervous system, so it is critical for people to take precautions when coming into contact with unfamiliar animals.

Due to the small size of bats' teeth and claws, bites or scratches can be difficult to detect, so anyone who has been near a bat should consider themselves at risk and seek medical advice. If a bat is found, whether dead or alive, it is important not to touch it directly and instead contact your local animal control service to have it safely removed and examined.

In cases where contact with a potentially rabid animal has occurred, post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) may be needed to prevent the onset of disease, which is almost always fatal once symptoms appear. Local health departments and health care providers can help determine if PEP is needed.

To minimize the risk of rabies transmission, pet owners are urged to keep their animals up to date with vaccinations and to supervise them outdoors. To prevent the spread of the virus, it is also important to avoid contact with wild animals and report any unusual behavior to animal welfare authorities.

Travelers visiting countries where rabies is more common should consider pre-exposure vaccination. Anyone bitten or scratched by an animal should immediately wash the wound thoroughly with soap and water before seeking medical attention.

The Utah Department of Health provides an online tool to help individuals determine the appropriate steps to take after a possible exposure to rabies. The department's website also provides additional information about the disease.

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Anna Harden

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