The St. Charles County Department of Public Health confirmed last week that a bat found in O’Fallon has tested positive for the rabies virus.
Rabies is a dangerous virus that infects the nervous system and is found in the saliva of mammals. Most commonly spread by bats and skunks in Missouri, pets and humans can become exposed through bites or scratches by infected animals. In both pets and humans, common symptoms of rabies infection include fever, body ache and difficulty moving, neck stiffness, brain swelling, and paralysis. In animals, unusual or atypical behavior and foaming at the mouth also are common. If these symptoms develop, the result is rarely survivable for pets and other animals; human deaths in the United States due to rabies are rare because of effective treatment procedures.
“Since bats and skunks have been found to carry the virus in Missouri, it is possible that your pets might encounter a creature infected with rabies,” advised Sara Evers, division of health services director. “Rabies illness requires mandatory preventative actions and extensive treatment, so it’s always best for people and pets to avoid contact with live or dead wild animals, unfamiliar dogs or cats, and any animals displaying unusual behaviors. The discovery of this infected bat also serves as a reminder that annual vaccination is required for all pets regardless of whether they are located in unincorporated or incorporated areas of the county and is the best way to prevent rabies infection.”
All St. Charles County veterinarians can provide rabies vaccination and the accompanying rabies registration for their clients. This registration comes with an annual rabies tag that must be displayed on the animal’s collar according to county ordinance. Individuals needing financial assistance to obtain the vaccination and registration tag should contact the St. Charles County Pet Adoption Center at (636) 949-7387.
Reporting of animal incidents and stray or potentially rabid animals also will help to prevent the spread of the disease. If an individual or pet is bitten or scratched by an animal, wound should be cleansed immediately with soap and water, seek any necessary medical care and alert the Division of Humane Services or your local law enforcement agency. Residents concerned about the presence of stray or potentially rabid animals on their property should call St. Charles County Animal Control at (636) 949-7347 for domesticated animals or the Missouri Department of Conservation’s St. Charles County regional office at (636) 441-4554 for wild animals.