Miami County Public Health confirms rabies in bat and human exposure

TROY — Last week, Miami County Public Health confirmed human exposure to rabies and the first animal case of rabies since 2015.

“Last week an individual awoke with essentially a bat hanging off that person’s lip and the bat had bitten that person,” said Dennis Propes, the Miami County health commissioner.

The resident immediately sought medical attention at a local hospital and began a prophylaxis, or disease prevention, treatment.

Miami County Public Health has been in regular contact with the individual and Propes indicated they are in good health.

The bat was later captured and sent of for testing by the Department of Health. The results were positive for rabies.

“It is not unusual for a bat to have it every once in a while,” said Propes.

The last animal case of rabies, back in 2015, was also a bat. Bats are migratory animals and while the state does have rabies prevention mechanisms, bats can come from an area where those practices are not supported.

Cases of rabies in humans are rare. The Center for Disease Control reports there are only one to three cases annually and only 25 cases in the last decade with seven of those originating outside the territorial U.S.

Still, rabies, once contracted, is fatal (with a few rare exceptions). To prevent these risks, Miami County Public Health offered some tips to keep yourself and your pets safe:

• Vaccinate your pets against rabies;

• If you are in close contact with a bat or any potentially rabid animal, seek immediate medical treatment;

• Leave wildlife alone;

• Report unusual behaviors in wildlife to animal control.

Rabies is a viral disease that is spread through bites or scratches from infected animals. It is a neurotropic disease that, once it has replicated enough inside the body, is able to travel through the central nervous system to the brain causing fatal inflammation in both the brain and spinal cord.

The World Health Organization states there is typically a two to three-month incubation period once the virus is transmitted. After the onset of symptoms, the disease is nearly 100% fatal. Immediate prophylaxis, like in the case of the Miami County resident, is needed.

“The people did exactly what they needed to do, and they are doing fine,” said Propes.