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Rabid bat found in Salt Lake City; possible rabid bat observed at Dinosaur National Monument

Posted at 11:00 AM, Jun 01, 2023

VERNAL, Utah — A bat found in Salt Lake City has tested positive for rabies, with officials now warning people to avoid contact with bats and other wild animals they may encounter.

In a release Thursday announcing the positive test, the Salt Lake County Health Department did not disclose where the infected bat was discovered. The department added that while only about one percent of bats carry rabies, they are the number one source of the viral disease in Utah.

Nicholas Rupp with the Salt Lake county Health Department explained while there are not currently any cases of rabies in humans in Utah, they want residents to be vigilant.

"We don't have any cases of rabies currently in Salt Lake County," he said. "In fact, we haven't had one in quite a while - many years."

According to the department, the Salt Lake Valley is home to a variety of bat species, with healthy ones posing no threat to residents and visitors. However, those with rabies may be weak, dehydrated or unable to fly, which makes them more approachable than healthy bats.

A possible rabid bat was also reported at Dinosaur National Monument around May 28. The TriCounty Health Department issued a warning after learning there may have been encounters between the bat and visitors over Memorial Day weekend.

"Bats have a flight range of up to 200 miles," Rupp explained. "So the bat could have been from a wide area here in the region."

Especially in the summer months, Rupp said Utahns will likely see bats more often.

"Bats usually start to begin weaning their young in May or June and so you will see more bats through the summer months," he said. "Then they have a migratory period in late summer and into fall into September and October."

It is illegal to intentionally harm a bat in Utah as they are a vital part of the ecosystem, particularly regarding pest control.

If anyone comes in contact with a bat, it should be reported to local health department officials to possibly receive a rabies vaccine.

Symptoms of rabies in humans include insomnia, anxiety, confusion, slight or partial paralysis, excitation, hallucinations, agitation, increase in saliva, difficulty swallowing and fear of water. Rabies can be treated if medication is given quickly, but once clinical signs of rabies appear, the disease is nearly always fatal.