July 1, 2016

Intermittent clouds

Rabies outbreak spreads among bats

WESTFIELD TWP. — A bat found in a home on Lake Road near Gloria Glens tested positive for rabies — the fourth rabid bat found in the county this year and the second in two weeks.

It’s the most bats testing positive since 2003, when four were found to be infected.

So far this year, the Medina County Health Department has sent 34 bats to Columbus to be tested — seven in April, 14 in May and 13 so far this month.

That works out to about a 12 percent rate of infection — more than double the about 4 to 5 percent expected for the total bat population.

But because relatively few bats have been tested, experts say the rate increase would be well within the statistical margin of error.

Health Department officials also speculate that the increased numbers of infected bats may be linked to a greater awareness among the public of the issue.

But Michael Koski, president of Get Bats Out, a commercial bat removal company based in Carbondale, Colo., said the increase may be part of a natural cycle.

“Probably less than 1 percent of bats in general carry the actual virus,” he said.

“We will see an outbreak like this in about five or six counties a year nationwide.”

According to Koski, an outbreak like the one in Medina County just happens and usually will persist throughout the summer.

“A sick bat will not return to its roost to avoid infecting the rest of the group,” he said. “Bats also find their way into homes during heat waves to get cool, at the end of hibernation and migratory season and when the (bat) pups leave the roost for the first time and get lost.”

The rabid bats discovered in Medina County were from different areas and seem to have no connection to one another, according to the Health Department.

The first bat was reported in Medina city in mid-March, the second in Brunswick city on May 16 and the third in Litchfield Township near the Litchfield Circle on May 29.

“We continue to ask the public to capture bats so we can get a better picture of what is happening in the county,” said Krista Wasowski, the county health commissioner.

No people or pets are believed to have been exposed to the virus.

It is important to keep bats out of the house, officials say. But the Health Department urges anyone who finds a bat in the house to capture the bat and not set it free so it can be tested for rabies.

Following are the recommended steps to catch a bat inside a building:

• Wear gloves and avoid direct skin contact with the bat.
• Avoid harming the bat’s head.
• Keep the bat in one room. Close windows, room doors and closet doors.
• Turn on lights if the room is dark and wait for the bat to land.
• Cover the bat with a coffee can or similar container. Slide a piece of cardboard under the can to trap the bat and tape the cardboard tightly to the can.
• If necessary, use a net or long pole with a piece of duct tape (sticky side out) to capture the bat.
• Do not use a glue board to capture the bat because this affects the rabies test.
• Do not drown the bat because this also affects the rabies test.

2003 4
2004 1
2005 0
2006 0
2007 1
2008 1
2009 1
2010 0
2011 1
2012 0
2013 4
SOURCE: Medina County Health Department
Contact reporter Andrew Davis at (330) 721-4012 or adavis@medina-gazette.com.