WARREN COUNTY, Va. (WHSV) — Some bats captured inside a home in Warren County tested positive for the rabies virus and now health officials are warning of the risks.
According to the Lord Fairfax Health District, residents of a rural property found three bats in a home on Nov. 24. Two tested positive for the virus.
"Any physical encounter with a bat -- bite, scratch, or lick, a collision with a flying bat, or even finding a bat in a room with a sleeping person -- should be considered a rabies exposure," said Lord Fairfax Health District Director Dr. Colin Greene, "and anyone so exposed should seek medical attention immediately."
Rabies is a virus that causes a fatal brain infection in mammals, including humans. According to the health district, once symptoms begin, death usually follows. However, a person exposed to the virus can prevent the disease from occuring by getting a series of shots.
The Lord Fairfax Health District said bats have a much higher level of mobility compared to other animals commonly infected with rabies. Their small mouths make it possible for a sleeping person to be unaware of being bitten. It is not possible to tell by looking at a bat to determine if it has rabies, however, bats in unusual places like inside a home or outside in the daytime, are more likely to be affected.
The health department further advises:
-- Never approach or touch wild animals, especially any raccoon, fox, skunk or bat, especially if it is behaving oddly or if it is seen in the daylight.
-- If you find a bat in a room where a human has been sleeping, that person must be seen by a medical professional immediately.
-- If you have bats in your attic or other area where you may physically encounter them, strongly consider having them removed by a professional.
-- Avoid stray cats and dogs. Feral or unknown cats and dogs may also carry rabies. Report bites or scratches from these animals to your physician or the health department.
-- Vaccinate all cats, dogs and ferrets against rabies (even if they don't go outdoors) and keep their shots up to date. Vaccinate working barn cats as well, for their protection and yours.
-- Do not feed wild animals or stray cats or dogs. Eliminate outdoor food sources around the home.
-- Keep pets confined to your property or walk them on a leash.
-- If one of your domestic animals is bitten or otherwise interacts with a wild mammal, notify the local health department and animal control officer at once, and have the animal seen by a veterinarian.
If you are bitten, scratched, or licked by any of these animals, seek medical attention immediately.
More information on rabies can be found on the Virginia Department of Health's website.