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The Washtenaw County Health Department is urging caution after two bats tested positive for rabies in the county this year. 

The two rabid bats were found in the 48104 zip code in January and 48103 zip code in May — just miles apart, officials said Thursday. 

“Bat encounters tend to increase in the summer and fall months," Judy Gwozdek, the department's communicable disease coordinator, said in a news release. "Our public health nurses are available to talk through each situation and determine if there was any risk of exposure to rabies. This is critical, because rabies is almost always fatal if not prevented with post-exposure vaccination.”

The county typically sees a couple rabid bats annually, she said. 

Officials said if you find a bat in your house, don’t let it out without reporting it to the health department. Bat bites are so small they are often undetectable. Costly rabies post-exposure treatments can be avoided if animals are captured and sent for rabies testing.

If a bat is found in the home, leave it alone and contact an animal control agency. Or, use these precautions to capture the bat safely:

  1. Put on leather work gloves.
  2. When the bat lands, approach it slowly and place a small box or coffee can over it.
  3. Slide a piece of cardboard under the container to trap the bat inside.
  4. Tape the cardboard to the container securely, and punch small holes in the cardboard, allowing the bat to breathe.

If the bat is dead, place it carefully in a resealable plastic bag and put it on ice until it can be sent in for testing.

The health department also recommends the following additional rabies prevention measures:

Make sure all open doors and windows have screens to prevent bats from entering your home. Check for other small openings, especially in older homes. Bats can enter through holes the size of a dime.

If you are bitten or scratched by a stray or wild animal, clean the bite or scratch wound immediately with soap and water and seek immediate medical attention.

Keep all pets, including cats, dogs, and ferrets, up-to-date on rabies vaccines.

The Washtenaw County Health Department is reminding residents to report any bat exposures or animal bites to (734) 544-6700 before letting the animal go.

srahal@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @SarahRahal_

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