SALT LAKE CITY — The first rabid bat of the summer season has been found in Utah, health officials said Thursday.
A Salt Lake County family discovered the animal in their backyard and reported it, according to Utah Department of Health epidemiologist Hannah Rettler. Bats are the leading carrier of rabies in Utah, so health officials reminded people to observe them at a safe distance.
"If you find yourself near a bat, dead or alive, do not touch, hit, or destroy it and do not try to remove it yourself," Rettler said in the release.
Any human or pet contact with a bat, dead or alive, should be reported to health officials regardless of whether the bat appears to be rabid, the release says. People can call 1-888-EPI-UTAH (374-8824) or contact their local health department if they think a person or pet has been been exposed to rabies or is exhibiting signs of the disease.
If a person or pet has been exposed to rabies, health officials recommend immediately washing the wound, and then reporting the animal that is suspected to be infected with the disease to the health department or the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources.
Symptoms of rabies might not show up in humans for weeks or months after infection but may initially appear similar to the flu before progressing into anxiety, confusion, abnormal behavior and delirium, the health department said. Once clinical signs of rabies show up in humans, the disease is almost always fatal, so it's important to report any suspected exposure to the disease, health officials said.
In 2018, a man from Moroni died from rabies after being exposed to an infected bat. He was the first Utahn to die of the disease since 1944, health officials said at the time.
Rabies signs in pets or other animals include obvious changes in behavior, such as aggression, attacking without reason, foaming at the mouth, no interest in food or water, staggering or paralysis, according to the health department.
More information about rabies is available at health.utah.gov/epi/diseases/rabies.