If you see a bat on Halloween or any other time of year, avoid touching it, because even a dead bat can transmit rabies, Riverside County health officials warned Monday.
"If you find a bat in your street or yard, steer clear," said Dr. Cameron Kaiser, the county's public health officer. "Rabies in humans is very rare, but if you're exposed and it's not dealt with promptly, rabies is almost always fatal. Leave bats alone."
Kaiser said he understood that it might be tempting to touch a dead or injured bat, out of curiosity or sympathy, but all it takes is a scratch to inflict the potentially deadly virus.
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According to the Riverside University Health System, nine bats found in different areas of the county this year have tested positive for rabies, compared to two found last year.
Bats may pose a greater danger to domestic animals that sniff them out, and county Department of Animal Services Director Alan Drusys said the best means of protecting a dog or cat is to "keep their rabies vaccination current."
"We all know pets can be very curious and are highly likely to sniff at or try to poke at a seemingly dead bat on a sidewalk or in the backyard," the veterinarian said. "Many times when we see these bats during daylight hours, it's because they're sick. Even a dead bat should be treated with caution to avoid any possible infection or transmission."
Health officials noted that sometimes mere contact with bat saliva or feces can expose a person or pet to rabies.
Anyone who finds a bat on their property is urged to contact animal control to have the creature safely removed.
Information regarding rabies exposure and the steps required to treat the virus can be found at https://www.cdc.gov/rabies/index.html.