While at Fauntleroy Park earlier today for the last Salmon in the Schools release of the season (story later), we found out that forest steward Peggy Cummings had found a dead bat in the park this week. It was a very small and likely juvenile bat, and no reason, she stresses, for you to panic, but it did make us realize we should publish this week’s alert from the state Health Department, since bats do turn up in West Seattle parks:
Since May 1, four bats found in Washington have tested positive for rabies, the highest number identified in the state in the month of May since 1998. The Washington State Department of Health reminds people to call their local health department if they, a family member or a pet interacts with a bat.
Health officials routinely test for and find rabid bats, typically during the summer months. DOH wants the public to continue to take appropriate precautions if a bat – dead or alive – is found. Try to avoid contact with bats and other wild animals; do not touch a bat if possible. If you do have contact with a bat or suspect that a family member or pet had contact with a bat, try to safely capture it and keep it contained away from people and call your local health department for next steps.
It is also important to protect your pets by ensuring their rabies vaccinations are current. More detailed precautions and information can be found on the Washington State Department of Health website.
While any mammal can be infected with the rabies virus, bats are the most common animal in Washington that carry rabies. In 2017, 22 bats were tested and found to have the virus. This is up from 2016 when 20 rabid bats were identified. The Washington State Public Health Laboratories tests between 200 and 300 bats per year. Typically, between three and 10 percent of the bats submitted for testing are found to be rabid.
The state says two of those bats were found in King County, but no further specifics. Cummings says she spoke to the county Health Department today and they said she and another park volunteer who briefly handled the dead bat don’t need to worry. “Rabies is serious but very rare,” she notes. But she also wants to remind you that you and your family should steer clear not only of bats but of any dead animal they find.