IDPH advises Iowans to be aware of increased activity, possible rabies risk


August 27th, 2012 by Ric Hanson

As expected this time of year, the Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH) is receiving an increasing number of bat-related rabies calls. These calls usually peak in August and September. According to the Department of Natural Resources, these are the months when interactions between humans and bats typically increase because of bat migration and increased mobility and traveling of young bat pups. So far in 2012, 11 rabid bats have been reported to IDPH.  One case was reported in Mills County. There have been no human rabies cases. There have also been reported cases of skunks having rabies. The IDPH says one each was reported in Cass and Guthrie Counties.

Rabies is a deadly virus spread to people from the saliva of infected animals, usually through an animal bite. The most common carriers of rabies in Iowa are bats and skunks, although many different species of animals can be infected with rabies. IDPH Public Health Veterinarian, Dr. Ann Garvey says “Rabies in humans is 100 percent preventable through prompt, appropriate medical care.” According to Garvey, ” If you think you might have been exposed to rabies, you should clean the wound immediately and then contact your health care provider.”

Bat bites can be visibly undetectable and therefore, if you have any physical contact with a bat, you should wash the exposed area thoroughly with soap and water. If possible, the bat should be captured and tested for rabies. If capture is not possible, you should seek medical attention. Additionally, if a bat is found in the same room as an unattended child, a sleeping person, or anyone who cannot reliably communicate what happened, this is considered a potential bat exposure, and medical attention should be sought.

There is a common misconception that you cannot legally kill bats in homes. This is not true. If you encounter a bat in your home, you may kill it in order to have it tested for rabies. This will help determine if you need to get the rabies shots.

For more information about rabies, visit