Los Angeles County Public Health officials have confirmed a rabid bat was found in the Sand Canyon area of the Santa Clarita Valley at the end of January.
“We did have a rabid bat reported this past week,” said Dr. Karen Ehnert, acting director of the Los Angeles County Department of Veterinary Public Health. “It had been collected in Santa Clarita on Jan. 30 and had been found in a resident’s garage. Luckily, no one was exposed. It was collected by an animal control officer from the Castaic Animal Shelter.”
It was the first rabid bat reported and confirmed in the county this year; no others were reported in the Sand Canyon area at the same time. “We did not have any more submissions from that home,” Ehnert said.
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The DVPH website’s list of rabid bat captures is updated through October 2011, but the site does not yet list this year’s first bat capture.
“Since that time, we have only had this one rabid bat, and we have yet to post it, because we just received the report this past week,” Ehnert said. “But we will be posting a (2012) map soon and it will have a single star on it, because this is the only rabid bat found in the county so far this year.”
Ehnert noted few rabid bats are found during the winter. “This is fairly early in the season," she said. "It starts increasing in the springtime. So this would be the same as we’ve seen last year and a few of the other years in the last 10.”
Last year there were 38 rabid bats found in Los Angeles County — 15 of them in the SCV. The county began testing for rabid bats in the early 1960s, but has no explanation for the spike in 2011.
“We had never seen that many rabid bats in a single year,” Ehnert said. “Normally there would be about eight to 12 positives in a year, so it was extremely unusual. We’re waiting to see if there’s going to be a decrease or not this year. We won’t really be able to know that until later in the spring when we typically see more possibly rabid bats being submitted to the Public Health lab.”
Ehnert described symptoms of a rabid bat, and what residents should do if they think they’ve found one. Most importantly, never touch it with your bare hands.
“If they do find a bat on the ground, or a bat that is flying around during daylight hours, those are indications that it might be rabid,” she said. “If a bat is found on the ground in a home or in a garage, the best thing is to cover it with a can or a box, something to contain it. Do not handle it. Just cover it and put some sort of weight on top of the can or box, and then call your local Animal Control agency. In your area, that would be the Castaic Shelter. The Animal Control officer will come out and collect it. They are the ones who submit (the bat) to Public Health for testing.”
Along with urging residents to be vigilant and careful, Ehnert said it’s important to protect family pets. “We’d also like to remind pet owners to be sure that their dogs and cats are up to date on their rabies vaccinations.”
For more information, visit the L.A. County Department of Veterinary Public Health’s website at http://publichealth.lacounty.gov/vet/rabiesmap2011.htm .