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June 1, 2023

Bat Found in Salt Lake City Has Tested Positive for Rabies

Nicholas Rupp - Email

(SALT LAKE COUNTY)—A bat found in Salt Lake City this week has tested positive for rabies, so the Salt Lake County Health Department (SLCoHD) is reminding people to avoid contact with bats and other wild animals they may encounter.

The Salt Lake Valley is home to multiple bat species, and some species also migrate through the area. Healthy bats usually avoid people and do not pose a threat to humans; during the day, it is normal to find them hanging upside down on the side of buildings or in trees.

But bats with rabies may behave unusually, such as entering areas they would usually avoid or spending time on the ground. They may also be weak, dehydrated or unable to fly, making them more approachable than usual.

Even though only a small percentage of bats actually carry rabies, it is important that people avoid contact with all wild animals because only a laboratory test (after an animal’s death) can determine if an animal has rabies. It is also important that pets are current on vaccines in case they come into contact with a wild animal that has rabies, and state law requires pet dogs, cats and ferrets to be immunized against rabies.

Utah law protects all bat species; it is illegal to intentionally harm a bat because they are an essential component of our ecosystem—they provide pest control, pollinate plants and disperse seeds.

A bat roosting on the exterior of your home and behaving normally is not a threat and you should leave the bat alone. If a bat is roosting in your attic, you can contact a local, permitted wildlife nuisance control company for help. The company will coordinate with the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources to authorize removal at specific times of the year when bat relocation is allowed.

Health officials say that if you encounter a bat on the ground or in an unusual place:

If you have had contact with a bat or a bat has been inside the living area of your home, call SLCoHD at 385-468-4222 to be evaluated for receiving rabies vaccine.

Rabies is an infectious viral disease that affects the nervous system of humans and other mammals. People usually get rabies from the bite of an animal with rabies. Any wild mammal—such as a raccoon, skunk, fox or bat—could have rabies and transmit it to people. It is also possible for people to get rabies if infectious material from a rabid animal, such as saliva or brain matter, gets into their eyes, nose, mouth or a wound.

People cannot get rabies just from seeing a rabid animal, and feces, blood and urine do not transmit rabies.

Symptoms of rabies in humans may include insomnia, anxiety, confusion, slight or partial paralysis, excitation, hallucinations, agitation, increase in saliva, difficulty swallowing and fear of water. Once clinical signs of rabies appear, the disease is nearly always fatal.