Kitsap resident takes proper steps after encountering bat with rabies

A bat captured after potentially having contact with a local resident last week tested positive for rabies, according to the Kitsap Public Health District.

“The positive rabies test — the first reported in Kitsap this year and the fifth in Washington state — is a reminder to avoid touching bats and to know the steps to take if you have contact with a bat,” a KPHD news release states.

The bat that tested positive last week in Kitsap County was captured by a resident who found the animal in their home. The resident was concerned that they might have been bitten by the bat and called the health district, which sent the bat to a lab for rabies testing.

After test results came back positive, the resident started postexposure prophylaxis — a series of potentially lifesaving shots that prevent rabies.

“Fortunately, this community member took the right steps to have this bat tested and start treatment,” KPHD Health Officer Dr. Gib Morrow said. “Rabies is preventable with timely treatment, but deaths are still reported and can occur if people don’t seek care.”

Bats are the only animals that regularly test positive for rabies in Washington state. Less than 1% of bats are believed to have rabies, but rabid bats are reported every year, according to the health district.

Rabies is a disease caused by a virus that is carried in saliva and spread through animal bites or scratches. People who are exposed to a potentially rabid animal can prevent rabies by seeking prompt medical treatment. Rabies infection almost always causes death in people who do not receive preventative treatment.

The health district has submitted 15 bats for rabies testing this year. In 2021, 21 bats from Kitsap were tested with one positive result.