A bat found in Barron County tested positive for the rabies virus, according to Barron County Public Health Department director Laura Sauve.

This is the first time since 2014 that an animal with rabies has been found in the county. Rabies is a rare but serious disease that can be fatal to humans.

Contact with an infected bat is the top cause of human rabies in the U.S. The disease is spread through a bite or scratch from an infected animal. Rabies in people is 100-percent preventable with immediate medical care.

A bite or a scratch from a bat is not always felt when it occurs because of the small size of a bat’s teeth and claws.

“Call public health if you are bitten or scratched by an animal, find a bat in your home or your pet has had contact with a bat or wild animal,” said Sauve. “We will work with you and your healthcare provider to decide further action.”

Sauve said a pet in Barron County had come in contact with a bat and the owners called the Barron County Sheriff’s Department on June 18. The bat was killed and sent to Wisconsin State Laboratory of Hygiene for rabies testing, which reported positive results on Thursday, June 20.

Fortunately, the pet was up to date on its rabies vaccinations. It was given a vaccine booster and is currently quarantined to see if it develops symptoms. Sauve said if the pet had not been vaccinated prior to the contact with the bat, it would have been recommended that the pet be put down.

“Most bats don’t have rabies. For example, even among bats submitted for rabies testing because they could be captured, were obviously weak or sick or had been captured by a cat, only about 6 percent had rabies,” Sauve said. “Just looking at a bat, you can’t tell if it has rabies. Rabies can only be confirmed in a laboratory. But any bat that is active by day or is found in a place where bats are not usually seen, like in your home or on your lawn, just might be rabid. A bat that is unable to fly and is easily approached could very well be sick.”

To protect yourself from rabies, vaccinate your pets and livestock against rabies, stay away from wild animals (especially those that are not acting normal), teach children to stay away from unfamiliar animals and, if any bite or scratch occurs, wash the wound immediately with soap and water for 10–15 minutes.

If you think you have been exposed to rabies, contact your healthcare provider or contact public health at 715-537-5691, ext. 6442. For more information call public health or go to www.cdc.gov/rabies.