June 21, 2017
Due to the increased number of Hays County residents calling the Hays County Local Health Department with questions about rabies in bats, the Department would like to provide the public with some facts about rabies.
Rabies is not a new disease in Texas. There are cases of documented rabid animals in Texas that date back almost 200 years. And Hays County is not currently seeing an increased number of animals that are testing positive for rabies. In fact, we are on track to have fewer cases than we did last year. In 2014 there were 26 bats that tested positive for rabies that were found in Hays County. That number dropped to 20 in 2015 and went up to 21 in 2016. As of June 21, there have only been 8 bats found in Hays County in 2017 that have tested positive for rabies. Other animals that are at a high risk of carrying rabies that can be found in Hays County include foxes, raccoons, skunks, coyotes, cats, and dogs. Mice, rats, squirrels, nutria, rabbits, opossums, armadillos, gophers, and other rodents can carry rabies, but the risk of these animals having the disease is very low.
But regardless of our current numbers, no one should ever touch a bat, dead or alive. Rabies is spread through the bite of an infected animal, but it can also be transmitted through the saliva of a rabid animal if the person has an open would or sore that is exposed to the animal’s saliva. Tell children to never touch dead or sick animals and to tell an adult if they see one.
Without treatment, rabies is a fatal disease. If you are bitten by an animal (wild or domestic) here are a few steps to follow that could save your life:
- Quickly and thoroughly wash the bite with soap and water. Rinse it well. Put an antiseptic on it to kill the germs.
- Remember what the animal looked like and where it can be found.
- See a doctor or contact the Local Health Department as soon as possible. The doctor, along with the Hays County Local Health Department, will decided if you need treatment to prevent rabies. Treatment is a series of shots that will require multiple visits to the doctor.
- Describe the animal that bit you (kind, size, and color) to the doctor, animal control officer, or the Hays County Health Department.
- Any biting dog, cat, or domestic ferret must be observed for 10 days in quarantine. If the quarantined animal is alive 10 days after the bite, it could not have given you rabies.
Symptoms of rabies in humans are similar to many other illnesses including fever, headache, and general weakness and discomfort. As the disease progresses, more specific symptoms appear and may include insomnia, anxiety, confusion, slight or partial paralysis, excitation, hallucinations, agitation, increased saliva, difficulty swallowing, and a fear of water. Death usually occurs within days of the onset of these symptoms so it is important to act fast after possibly being exposed to rabies.
If you think you may have been exposed to rabies or have questions, please contact the Hays County Local Health Department at 512-393-5520.
Eric Schneider Ian Harris
Hays County Local Health Department Hays County Local Health Department