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Bat tests positive for rabies in Wahkiakum County

A bat collected in Wahkiakum County has tested positive for rabies.

The bat was found at a residence in Cathlamet, and was brought in to Wahkiakum County Health & Human Services to be sent off for testing. This is the first bat to test positive for rabies in Wahkiakum County since 2008. While no one reported being bitten by the bat, a dog may have been exposed during capture. This serves as a reminder to be cautious around wildlife, as well as making sure animals are up to date on pre-exposure rabies vaccination.

Bats are important for our ecosystem in Washington, but they can also carry rabies. Less than one percent of bats in the wild are infected with rabies. Between 3-10% of bats submitted for testing are found to be rabid. Bats tested for rabies are more likely to test positive for rabies because they tend to be sick or to come into contact with a person or other animal. Healthy bats typically avoid contact with people.

Rabies is a fatal but preventable viral disease. It lives in the saliva and brain tissue of an infected animal and can be spread to people and pets through bites and scratches. Rabies primarily affects the central nervous system, leading to severe brain disease and death if medical care is not received before symptoms start. Immediate medical attention following suspected rabies exposure is critical, as rabies is almost always fatal once symptoms begin. If symptoms have not begun, infection can be prevented through rabies post-exposure treatment.

Wahkiakum County Health & Human Services recommends avoiding direct contact with wildlife or any animal that is behaving strangely. If you find a bat in your home, safely capture it for testing at the health department using the following steps:

- When the bat lands, approach it slowly, while wearing thick gloves, and place a cardboard box or coffee can over it. Handle injured or possibly dead bats in the same fashion.

- Slide a piece of cardboard under the container to trap the bat inside.

- Tape the cardboard to the container securely, and punch small holes in the cardboard to allow

the bat to breathe.

- Do not come into physical contact with the bat. - Bring the container to the Elochoman Campus.

Call ahead to notify staff if you can. If exposed to a potentially-infected animal, treatment can be arranged through your health care provider and reported to the health department. If there is concern of exposure to pets, reach out to your veterinarian for guidance. In Washington, rabies vaccination is required for all dogs, cats, and ferrets. Wahkiakum County Health & Human Services strongly recommends making sure pets are up-to-date on vaccinations.

The Wahkiakum County Health & Human Services Elochoman Campus is located at 42 Elochoman Valley Rd in Cathlamet, WA. You can reach staff with questions at (360) 795-6207. For more information on rabies and rabies prevention, please visit


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