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SALT LAKE CITY — Utah health officials on Thursday confirmed three cases of rabies in bats that exposed humans and dogs to the disease.
"The humans received preventive vaccines, and the dogs received boosters and a 45-day home quarantine because they were up-to-date on their rabies vaccinations," the Department of Health and Human Services said in a statement.
The bats were found in Washington, Salt Lake County, and Weber counties, according to Hannah Rettler, an epidemiologist with the Utah Department of Health and Human Services.
"The location really doesn't matter," spokeswoman Charla Haley said. "There is a risk when being around any wild animals regardless of location."
Health officials noted that a bite or scratch from an infected mammal can transmit rabies. Exposure through bats is the leading cause of human death due to rabies in Utah. The state averages about 15 rabid animals reported every year, according to the statement.
In 2021, five people in the U.S. died from rabies, the department said.
If an unvaccinated pet is exposed to rabies, officials said they either need to be kept in professional isolation for four months or euthanized.
"Keeping your pet current on its rabies vaccines is the most important and affordable way to protect you and your pet from rabies," the department said.
Bat's teeth and claws are so small that a bite or scratch "may not be seen or even felt by the injured person," according to the statement. Symptoms of rabies may not appear for weeks to months after exposure. All exposures should be reported, officials said.
Rabies symptoms begin similar to the flu, then include anxiety, confusion, abnormal behavior and delirium. Officials noted that once those symptoms begin, the disease is typically fatal in humans.
"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," said Rettler.
Those who find a bat should contact their local animal control office or the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources to collect the animal for rabies testing.
Symptoms of rabies in pets include changes in normal behavior, aggression, attacking without reason, foaming at the mouth, lack of interest in food or water, staggering or paralysis.
"Infected wild animals may also act uncharacteristically tame or unafraid of humans. Infected bats may be seen flying around during the daytime, resting on the ground, or may show no noticeable signs at all," officials said.
More information about how to protect yourself and your pets from rabies can be found at epi.health.utah.gov/rabies.