Springfield, Illinois – The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) has issued an urgent warning to residents about the alarming increase in rabid bats and infected animals in the state. So far this year, more than two dozen cases of rabid bats have been reported across fourteen counties, raising concerns among health officials.
Bats are the primary carriers of rabies in Illinois, and the risk of exposure tends to spike during the summer months, particularly in July and August. However, other wild animals, including raccoons, skunks, foxes, and coyotes, can also carry the deadly virus.
IDPH Director Dr. Sameer Vohra stressed that rabies is a fatal but preventable disease, urging residents to take necessary precautions. Vaccinating pets, being cautious around wildlife, and seeking immediate medical attention after a potential exposure are critical steps in preventing the spread of the virus.
Rabies is a viral disease that attacks the nervous system and can be transmitted through bites or contact with infected animal saliva. Even if there is no visible bite, waking up to find a bat in the room is considered an exposure.
Small children may not notice a bat’s bite due to the tiny size of their teeth, making it essential not to handle bats found indoors. Instead, residents should contact their local animal control or health department for guidance. If exposure to rabies is suspected, prompt preventive treatment, known as PEP, is necessary.
Illinois State Veterinarian, Dr. Mark Ernst, emphasized the importance of protecting pets by vaccinating all dogs and cats as required by state law. Other animals like horses, sheep, cattle, and ferrets can also be vaccinated against rabies.
To prevent rabies:
- Avoid attracting wild animals with open garbage cans or litter.
- Refrain from adopting or bringing wild animals into homes.
- Educate children not to handle unfamiliar animals, wild or domestic.
- Prevent bats from entering homes and buildings; consult professionals if a bat is found indoors.
- Follow proper steps to capture bats safely if animal control is unavailable.
- Refrain from physical contact with bats and keep them cool if deceased until picked up by animal control.
For more information on rabies and preventive measures, visit the Illinois Department of Public Health website.