Bat tests positive for rabies
A bat carrying the rabies virus was found in Lake Leelanau.
The Benzie-Leelanau District Health Department confirmed Tuesday that a bat, brought to the department by a resident, was found to be infected with rabies.
Michelle Klein, health department nurse, said it’s not known whether the infected bat had bitten humans. Rabies virus is carried in the saliva of those infected. When left untreated, the communicable disease can be deadly.
“The biggest concern is when they are found where people are sleeping,” Klein said. “The bite is too small to know for sure whether they’ve been exposed.”
To determine whether a mammal has the virus, a post-mortem examination of its brain is required and performed by the state Department of Community Health in Lansing. The bat that tested positive was killed and taken to the health department in a glass jar.
“They should scoop it up in a box or a bag,” Klein said, adding that because the virus lodges in the brain of infected animals, it is important that the specimen’s brain be intact when submitted.
If there’s any chance of human exposure, Klein, a health department nurse, said that it’s better to err on the side of caution and treat the patient.
Treatment includes a series of four injections over 14 to 28 weeks following exposure.
Symptoms include fever, headache, body aches, seizures and coma.
Klein advises residents who see sick animals such as racoons, fox or skunks to stay away from them and call county animal control.
According to the Michigan Department of Community Health, 48 specimens have tested positive for the virus this year. The number includes 40 bats and eight skunks. The largest concentration was in Washtenaw County where four “positives” were found.
This year to date, the Benzie- Leelanau health department has submitted four bats and one raccoon for testing of which one was found to be positive for the virus.
“It seems like we’ve had a lot more bats this season than usual,” Klein said.
Further information is available by calling 256-0200.