GREAT FALLS — The City-County Health Department in Great Falls confirmed that a bat has tested positive for rabies in Cascade County. The confirmation was made on Friday, Sept. 17.
Cascade County’s last rabid animal, also a bat, was identified in August 2020.
Human rabies deaths in the US are extremely rare, according to the CDC, and have averaged about one to two deaths per year since the 1990s.
Preventative treatment for rabies is nearly 100% successful; the last identified human death in Montana happened in 1997.
If you get bitten or scratched by an animal:
- Immediately wash the affected area thoroughly with soap and warm water, and also use a viricidal agent such as iodine.
- Seek medical attention and report the exposure immediately.
The CCHD provided this information to prevent and appropriately respond to a rabies exposure:
- Do not feed or handle wild animals, especially bats. Bats and skunks are the most likely carriers of the rabies virus in Montana and should be avoided. Bats are especially concerning because their teeth are so small that a bite may not be noticeable, and people are sometimes bitten in their sleep without knowing it.
- Avoid animal bites from domestic animals. Do not approach unfamiliar animals, and always request the owner’s permission before petting an animal.
- Do not attempt to help a sick or injured wild animal.
- Vaccinate dogs and cats against rabies. Rabies vaccinations are required by law, and all dogs and cats should have a current rabies certificate. Cats are especially susceptible to rabies.
- Bat-proof your house. Put screens on all windows, doors, and chimneys to prevent bat entry. Visit our website for information on safely catching a bat in your home.
- Know what to do if there’s a bite. If someone is bitten by a domestic dog, cat, or ferret, the animal can be observed for signs of rabies, almost always avoiding the need for treatment. If an animal cannot be located, observed, or tested, a person may need to undergo a series of immunizations to prevent rabies. If you are bitten, call a healthcare provider or CCHD immediately.
There are several species of bat that call Montana home, including Big Brown Bat (Eptesicus fuscus); Little Brown Myotis (Myotis lucifugus); Silver-haired Bat (Lasionycteris noctivagans); and Townsend’s Big-eared Bat (Corynorhinus townsendii).