DALLAS -- Officials from the Polk County Environmental Health Division have confirmed a bat has tested positive for rabies.
Oregon State University Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory verified the test results.
"We want to advise all pet owners that they should make certain their dogs and cats are vaccinated against rabies," said Jim Solvedt, Polk County Environmental Health. "When our pets are protected from rabies, it provides a buffer zone of immune animals between humans and rabid wild animals such as bats."
Residents and veterinarians should be aware that other animals could be exposed to the rabies virus and should be alert to potential signs of the disease, Solvedt added.
Rabies is endemic in the bat population. Although bats are useful in that they help control insect populations, they are also the primary carrier for rabies in wild animals, according to Solvedt.
Rabies is a viral disease that affects the nervous system of mammals including humans. The virus is carried in the saliva of an infected animal; transmission can occur when that animal bites, or in rare instances, scratches another. Residents should not handle bats with bare hands and should keep their pets' rabies immunizations up to date.
"Bat bites can often go undetected because there is no visible bite mark or scratch left on the skin by the bat's very small teeth," said Solvedt. "According to studies, upward of 95 percent of people infected with rabies during the past 10 years were unaware they had been bitten or scratched."
Health officials advise that if bitten by a bat, a person should immediately clean the bite wound with soap and water and seek medical attention. The event should be reported to the county Environmental Health Division and arrangements made to have the bat safely captured and tested for rabies.
Twelve bats have tested positive for rabies in Oregon this year, including the bat in Polk County.