Bartholomew County bat tests positive for rabies

A Bartholomew County bat has tested positive for rabies after biting a person, according to the Bartholomew County Health Department.

Health officials say that rabies is a matter of life and death. Rabies is almost always fatal in humans if it is not caught before symptoms manifest. The virus is transmitted through the saliva of affected creatures and there is no way to tell by sight whether an animal has the disease.

Collis Mayfield, administrator of the health department, said the person bitten was lucky — both because the person noticed they had been bitten and because they were able to catch the bat for testing. The victim is undergoing rabies treatments now.

According to the agency, if you are bitten by a bat, or any wild animal, you should wash the area with soap and water and immediately contact your doctor, who will determine if antibiotics or a tetanus shot are needed.

A bite must be reported to the local health department and the doctor, with the health department, will decide if the patient should be treated with the rabies vaccine.

Mayfield said that the danger with having infected bats is that they can then spread the virus to other animals they may bite.

The agency says that of 29 local bats tested over the past three years this is the second positive test rabies. Bats and skunks are considered the most common sources of rabies. Since 1962, more than 500 Indiana bats have tested positive for rabies and more than 800 skunks. The most recent positive test for rabies in a dog was 1989 and in a cat was 1984.