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Rabies risk heightened going into bat season

The first canine case in Michigan since 2011 was found in Detroit
Posted at 5:41 PM, May 24, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-24 17:41:04-04

WXMI — For the first time since 2011, a dog in Michigan has tested positive for rabies. The dog was from the metro-Detroit area and while health experts say the case is unique, they’re far more worried about another animal more capable of spreading the dangerous disease.

“The animal that most often tests positive for rabies in Michigan is bats,” said Dr. Kimberly Signs, and epidemiologist with the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. “Of the bats that we receive in our laboratory for rabies testing about 1-in-20 bats are positive, about 5%.”

Dr. Signs says the dog that tested positive was less than a year old and unvaccinated for rabies. MDHHS still doesn’t know which strain the dog contracted or whether it was caused by a bat. Regardless, Signs says vaccinating dogs and ferrets against rabies is mandated by state law. She also recommends owners of cats and livestock consider it as well.

In the United States each year, there are typically between one-and-two human rabies cases. The disease is relatively easy to treat when caught early, but it’s very difficult to survive after the onset of symptoms and almost always turn fatal.

“I think there have been one or two cases where people have pulled through,” said Dr. Kristin Davison with the Kent County Animal Shelter. “You will not notice a bat bite in most cases. Sometimes they’ll bite under the hair or other places where you won’t notice it.”

If you see a bat in your home, catch it and contact your local health department so they can test it.