Bats test positive for rabies in Jefferson County

August 16, 2022

Since July of last year, three bats have tested positive for rabies in the Jeffersontown area. Most recently, an infected bat was discovered at a residence located in the 40299 ZIP code. The Louisville Metro Department of Public Health and Wellness (LMPHW) is asking the community to take precautions if they encounter a bat.

“People should never touch a bat or keep them as pets,” said Connie Mendel, senior deputy director of LMPHW. “Someone may not realize they have been bitten by a bat because they have very sharp, tiny teeth. Transmission of rabies can occur through a bat’s bite or the animal’s saliva if it gets in a person’s eyes, nose, mouth or an open wound.”

Rabies can spread to people and pets if they are bitten or scratched by a rabid animal. In the United States, rabies is most found in wild animals including bats, skunks, racoons and foxes. Bats are the leading cause of rabies in the U.S.

The rabies virus infects the central nervous system. Without appropriate medical care, it can cause disease in the brain which can result in death. Treatment for rabies consists of a dose of human rabies immune globulin and the rabies vaccine. Treatment is recommended for both bite and non-bite exposures. Once rabies symptoms begin there is no treatment, in which case the disease is fatal.

Rabies can be prevented by vaccinating pets, avoiding wildlife and seeking medical care immediately for potential exposure. If you encounter a bat in your home:

  • If possible, close the door to isolate the bat in the room.
  • Contact your doctor and LMPHW at 502-574-6650 right away. The health department will arrange for the bat to be collected and tested for rabies.
  • If you know you have been bitten or scratched by a bat:
    • Wash the wound thoroughly with soap and water and seek medical attention immediately.
    • If the bat tests negative for rabies, you will not need post-exposure treatment.
  • If you do not know how the bat got into your home, you will also need to contact a bat remediation specialist to determine if bats are living in your home.

If your pet encounters a bat:

  • Contact LMPHW at 502-574-6650 or email [email protected]. Your pet may need to be quarantined to ensure rabies is not transmitted. Please advise the health department if you choose to have your pet quarantined at another location besides your home.
  • If your pet bites or scratches someone during a rabies exposure quarantine, you must report the incident to us at LMPHW.

 “It’s important to keep your dogs, cats and ferrets up-to-date with their rabies vaccine,” Mendel said.

For information about low-cost pet vaccinations, contact Louisville Metro Animal Services.

If you have general questions regarding bats or rabies, contact the LMPHW Rabies Prevention Program at 502-574-6640.

Healthcare providers are required to report animal bites to LMPHW. Rabies reporting and treatment protocols for healthcare providers are posted here.

People who live outside of Jefferson County who find a dead bat should contact Kentucky Fish and Wildlife or their local health department for the possible collection of the animal. Residents may call Kentucky Fish and Wildlife from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. (EDT) on weekdays at 800-858-1549 or email the agency any time at [email protected].

For more information about rabies and prevention tips, visit our rabies control page.

 

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ABOUT LOUISVILLE METRO DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC HEALTH AND WELLNESS 

Louisville Metro Department of Public Health and Wellness (LMPHW) is a nationally accredited, independent, academic health department committed to achieving health equity and improving the health and well-being of all Louisville residents and visitors. 

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