Officials urge caution after rabid bat found in Buda

Hays County Local Health Department staff have confirmed a slight increase in the number of animals that have tested postive for rabies this year.

A dead bat  found on the ground in the 500 block of Faircrest Drive in Buda around 8 p.m. Oct. 23 was tested by the State Department of State Health Services and found to be positive for rabies, making it the 25th confirmed case in 2017.

“While you will notice that we are seeing a couple more cases than we have the past two years, it is not a significant increase,” said Eric Schneider, Epidemiologist for Hays County Health Department. “Also understand that if a bat is determined to be untestable due to decomposition of its body, it will be presumed positive, which can lead to inflated numbers.”

Rabies is not a new disease in Texas; according to a Hays County press release in June there are cases of documented rabid animals in Texas that date back almost 200 years. 

In 2014, 26 animals found in Hays County tested positive for rabies; that number dropped to 20 in 2015 and went up to 21 in 2016.

As of October 26, there have been 25 cases of animals found in Hays County in 2017 that have tested positive for rabies.

According to Schneider, rabies is a random occurrence that can increase in risk among animals with a large population such as bats.

Schneider stated that while bats are common in the area the best method for residents to help deter outbreak and infection among humans and domesticated animals is to avoid wild animals that exhibit strange behavior; such as venturing too close to humans and their habitats.

He also stated that the rapid growth in the area could attribute to the slight rise in the number of animals that have tested postive for rabies as the loss of these creatures’ natural habitats places them in closer proximitiy to humans.

Other animals that are at a high risk of carrying rabies that can be found in Hays County include foxes, raccoons, skunks, coyotes, cats and dogs.

Mice, rats, squirrel, nutria, rabbits, opossums, armadillos, gophers, and other rodents can carry rabies, but the risk of these animals having the disease is very low.

The  rabies virus infects the central nervous system, ultimately causing disease in the brain and death.

Symptoms of rabies in humans are similar to many other illnesses including fever, headache, general weakness and discomfort.

As the disease progresses, more specific symptoms appear and may include insomnia, anxiety, confusion, slight or partial paralysis, excitation, hallucinations, agitation, increased saliva, difficulty swallowing, and a fear of water.

Any resident who believes they may have come into contact with an animal that is infected, may call the Hays County Health Department at 512-393-5525 or the Department of State Health Services Zoonosis Control at 254-778-6744.

The 411 on rabies

Without treatment, rabies is a fatal disease. If you are bitten by an animal (wild or domestic) here are a few steps to follow that could save your life:

  • Quickly and thoroughly wash the bite with soap and water. Rinse it well. Put an antiseptic on it to kill the germs.
  • Remember what the animal looked like and where it can be found.
  • See a doctor or contact the Local Health Department as soon as possible. The doctor, along with the Hays County Local Health Department, will decided if you need treatment to prevent rabies. Treatment is a series of shots that will require multiple visits to the doctor.
  • Describe the animal that bit you (kind, size, and color) to the doctor, animal control officer, or the Hays County Health Department.

Any biting dog, cat, or domestic ferret must be observed for 10 days in quarantine. If the quarantined animal is alive 10 days after the bite, it could not have given you rabies.

Symptoms of rabies in humans are similar to many other illnesses including fever, headache, and general weakness and discomfort.

As the disease progresses, more specific symptoms appear and may include insomnia, anxiety, confusion, slight or partial paralysis, excitation, hallucinations, agitation, increased saliva, difficulty swallowing, and a fear of water.

Death usually occurs within days of the onset of these symptoms so it is important to act fast after possibly being exposed to rabies.

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