The Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) is alerting the public that a brown bat found in the Common Fence Point section of Portsmouth earlier this week has tested positive for rabies. Because rabies is a fatal disease, anyone who may have had contact with this animal is urged to contact RIDOH as soon as possible.
The bat was discovered by an onlooker on January 11th between 8:30 a.m. and 9 a.m. at the intersection of Massachusetts Boulevard and Anthony Road in Portsmouth. The bat, which was acting sickly, was surrounded by a crowd of observers. On January 14th the bat was submitted by a Wildlife Rehabilitation Specialist to RIDOH’s State Health Laboratories for rabies testing. (Wildlife Rehabilitation Specialists are permitted by the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM).) The positive rabies test was confirmed on January 15th.
Anyone who may have had direct contact with the bat should immediately call RIDOH’s Center for Acute Infectious Disease Epidemiology at 401-222-2577 (Monday-Friday 8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m.) or 401-276-8046 after hours for treatment guidance. RIDOH should also be contacted if a pet may have come into contact with this bat.
The rabies virus infects the central nervous system. If a person does not receive the appropriate medical care after a potential rabies exposure, the virus can cause disease in the brain, ultimately resulting in death. Rabies treatment must be started as soon as possible after exposure.
All dogs, cats and ferrets are required by state law to have current vaccination against rabies. Vaccination of pets prevents them from contracting rabies and prevents people from becoming exposed to rabies through their pets.
RIDOH and DEM make the following recommendations to prevent rabies:
– Make sure all dogs, cats, and ferrets are up to date on rabies vaccination. – Avoid all contact with and do not feed stray or free-roaming domestic animals. – Avoid all contact with and do not feed wild animals. – Do not feed your animals outdoors, as this will attract other animals. This is especially dangerous when feeding large numbers of free-roaming cats. – Protect your pets by always maintaining control; walk dogs on a leash or let them play in a fenced yard, and do not let pets wander unsupervised. – Report all animal bites to your city/town’s animal control officer. – Securely cover all garbage cans so wild animals cannot scavenge for food.