After bat found in Johnson County home tests positive for rabies, health department urges residents to vaccinate pets

A lab test on a bat found alive in a Johnson County home has tested positive for rabies. Photo credit U.S. Fish and Wildlife.

The Johnson County Department of Health and Environment says a bat brought to its lab has tested positive for rabies.

The bat was found alive inside a Johnson County home by the home’s residents. JCDHE recommended the bat be tested because the residents could not confirm that they had not be exposed to the animal.

“We recommend that bats and other animals be tested for rabies when there is a known exposure such as a bite, scratch or abrasion or if the bat was found in a bedroom while people were sleeping since they might be unaware that a bite occurred,” said JCDHE’s Jenny Dunlay. “Testing bats and other animals after a possible exposure can determine if rabies prophylaxis (shots) is necessary.”

It’s not the first time in recent history a bat in the county has tested positive for the disease. The county found a rabies-positive bat here in October 2016. And while it’s been 50 years since a human rabies case has been recorded in Kansas, a Missouri man died of rabies in September 2014.

Rabies is a viral infection that causes inflammation in and around the brain resulting in variety of symptoms, including paralysis, confusion, paranoia and anxiety and coma. If transmitted to humans, it is almost always fatal if left untreated. However, if an infected individual is given a vaccination against the disease within six days of exposure, chances of survival are extremely high.

After announcing the positive test result from the bat, JCDHE reminded homeowners to have their pets vaccinated for the disease, as well as how to respond if you encounter bats in the area.

“Do NOT touch bats – living or dead – with bare hands,” the department wrote on Twitter. “If you/your pet come into contact with a #bat (living or dead), call animal control or a pest company to have bat removed & tested for rabies.”

JCDHE says it has not determined the species of the bat at this time. As a matter of policy, the department will not announce the location where the rabies-positive bat was found within the county.