SHARON, Pa. (WKBN)- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is urging people to be careful and take the proper precautions around bats.
The agency reported an increase in the number of rabies cases and number of people who died due to rabies last year in the United States.
Five people, including a child, died from rabies last year. That’s the highest number of deaths linked to rabies in a decade. Three of those cases were linked back to a bat.
A woman in Sharon says her family was just exposed to a bat in her home. Bonnie Wilson’s children noticed it in the basement.
She said it was moving kind of sluggish and acting strange, so they put it in a bucket and put it outside.
The Wildlife Manager for the Pennsylvania Game Commission’s Northwest Region, Roger Coup, says there are two types of rabies to look out for. There’s the rabid type. That’s when an animal is showing aggressive symptoms. There’s also the dumb type, where the animal is not moving, acting disoriented or could be salivating.
Get daily news, weather, breaking news and alerts straight to your inbox! Sign up for the abc27 newsletters here
Wilson decided to look up the bat. She saw that it could be a small brown bat, which is on the endangered species list. She went back outside, put the bat in a container and called the game warden.
The game warden picked it up and tested it for rabies. The test came back positive.
“My heart just dropped because it reminded me when I was younger when I got bit by a sewer rat. So I know how the whole routine about the rabies thing goes. I didn’t want to go through that again or put my children through that either,” Wilson said.
Luckily, no one in her handled it directly. She also took her pets to the vet for post-exposure shots.
It’s very common for bats to have rabies, according to Coup. However, most of the time they don’t show symptoms.
Although the CDC reported a record number of cases, he says a person developing rabies is uncommon, but if left untreated, it could be life-threatening.
“Rabies is almost always fatal and if you start to exhibit symptoms, you can count on one hand probably the number of people who have survived rabies once they develop symptoms,” said Coup.
Coup says it’s best to contact your doctor right away if you think you’ve been exposed or bitten.
“Bats are a carrier of rabies, but they’re also a very beneficial species. People shouldn’t be afraid of them. Just respect them. Don’t try to handle them,” Coup said.”
He says if you find a bat in your house and it’s acting normal, try opening a window and see if the bat leaves on its own.
If it doesn’t or you notice a bat acting strange, he says to try and capture it safely and contact the game commission.
The game commission says it will always test a bat for rabies if it’s found in someone’s home.