Several Bats Test Positive for Rabies in Nebraska

LINCOLN, Neb. -- Nebraska health officials are reminding people to avoid wild animals, including bats, as more rabies tests have come back positive.

Late summer is prime time for bat activity in Nebraska and health officials warn that we should take care to avoid rabies exposure as the season wanes.

“Bats are responsible for carrying much of the rabies virus in Nebraska,” said Dr. Bryan Buss, State Public Health Veterinarian for the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services. “We’re well into the peak time of the year for bat activity. People should be cautious around bats and other wild animals, like skunks, which are another common rabies carrier.”

Fifteen animals have tested positive for rabies so far this year, 12 of them bats.

No human cases of rabies have occurred among Nebraskans since the 1920s but officials advise caution.

In addition to bats and skunks, other wildlife such as foxes, coyotes and raccoons can have rabies and transmit it to people. Rabies is caused by a virus that affects the nervous system and is transmitted by the bite of an infected animal or if saliva from a rabid animal gets directly into an open wound or a person’s eyes, nose or mouth. Rabies is generally fatal without treatment.

Help prevent the spread of rabies by following these tips:

  • Be a responsible animal owner. Keep vaccinations up-to-date for all dogs, cats, ferrets and other animals you own.
  • Seek immediate veterinary assistance for your pet if it’s bitten by a wild animal or exposed to a bat.
  • Call your local animal control agency about removing stray animals in your neighborhood.
  • Do not touch, feed, or unintentionally attract wild animals with open garbage cans or litter.
  • Never adopt wild animals or bring them into your home. Do not try to nurse sick, wild animals to health. Call animal control or an animal rescue agency for assistance.
  • Teach children never to handle unfamiliar animals, wild or domestic, even if they appear friendly. “Love your own, leave other animals alone” is a good principle for children to reduce the risk of contact with rabid animals.
  • Maintain homes and other buildings so bats can’t get inside.
  • If a bat is in your house, don’t let it outside until you talk to animal control or public health officials.

What to do if you think you’ve had direct contact with a bat:

  • If you have been bitten or wake up and find a bat in your room, you should try to safely capture the bat and have it tested. The same precautions should be used if you see a bat in a room with an unattended child.
  • If you or a family member has been in close proximity to, had direct contact with, or been bitten by a bat, consult your doctor or local health department for assistance to determine if you might have been exposed to rabies and need preventive treatment.
  • People might know when they’ve been bitten by a bat but its small teeth can make a bite mark difficult to find. It’s better to be safe than sorry. Try to safely capture the bat or call animal control and have the bat tested.

Rabies cases in Nebraska
2019 – 15 positive cases to date (12 bats and 3 skunks)
2018 – 22 cases (17 bats, 2 skunks, 1 cat, and 1 horse, and 1 bovine)
2017 – 19 cases (10 bats, 7 skunks, and 2 cats)
2016 – 19 cases (14 bats, 4 skunks, and 1 bovine)