The Flathead City-County Health Department has issued an advisory about a “significant” increase in contact with bats and skunks with humans and domestic animals.
Not all bats and skunks carry rabies, but in order to know for certain, the animal must be available for testing, Hillary Hanson, health officer for the county, noted.
In order to know if a bat or skunk has rabies, the animal has to be available for testing. If it’s not, and a human or pet has been bitten, scratched, or been in direct contact, it is considered a rabies exposure and follow-up is required.
If a skunk or a bat has had human contact, the health department will cover the cost for the rabies test.
“We urge residents to be cautious. If you or your pet has had direct contact with the bat or skunk, please contact the health department to ensure proper handling and testing is completed. The health department will pay the fees for testing – it is one way we can ensure cost is not a barrier to testing and that we keep our community healthy,” Hanson said.
In order to ensure FCCHD can test a bat or a skunk for rabies, the brain/head must be intact and the head must be refrigerated (but not frozen, do not freeze) until sent for testing. Call the Flathead City-County Health Department at 751-8110 to discuss potential rabies exposure and proper procedures.
Correction: This story originally indicated the cases of rabies in Flathead County has increased, which was an error. Contact with animals carrying rabies has increased.