DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH NEWS
The New Mexico Department of Health (NMDOH) advises residents not to touch unknown animals or wildlife in distress, but report the incident to your city or county animal control services for proper care or action instead.
The NMDOH this month has received increasing reports of people coming into contact with bats. Because of current high temperatures and lack of water, bats can have the tendency to fall on the ground from their perches where the nocturnal animals normally hang during daylight. Their reaction to extreme heat can cause bats to seem ill and display unusual behavior.
“If you see a sick or dead bat, don’t touch it.” said NMDOH Cabinet Secretary Dr. Tracie Collins. “You might think you’re doing the kind thing by trying to help an animal, but if that animal bites or scratches you, you could put yourself at risk for rabies. Dead animals can also pose risk for rabies if improperly handled.”
Rabies is a viral disease usually transmitted through the bite of an infected animal. The rabies virus infects the central nervous system; ultimately causing disease in the brain and death.
Most bats do not carry rabies, but anyone who may have been bitten or scratched by a bat should consult with their healthcare provider and the New Mexico Department of Health to evaluate whether they need rabies vaccination.
Parents are encouraged to teach children not to touch strange animals, and to tell an adult if they see one.
Two bats from Torrance County have tested positive for rabies in New Mexico in 2021. In 2020 in New Mexico, nine bats tested positive for rabies in Bernalillo, Colfax, Doña Ana, Luna, Socorro, and Valencia Counties.
Here are some additional tips to protect you and your family from rabies:
· Always keep pets on a leash when outdoors. Pets should be up to date on rabies vaccinations and wearing current license tags on their collar. If your cat or dog has been bitten or scratched, call your pet’s veterinarian, even if the wound appears very minor.
· Horses and other livestock should be considered for rabies vaccination to protect them from rabid animals that may attack them.
· Stay away from wild or unfamiliar animals. This includes animals who are acting sick, fearless, aggressive or even friendly. Do not attempt to feed, approach, or touch wild animals (alive or dead). Teach this important message to your children.
· If you or a loved-one are bitten by an animal, or come into contact with an animal’s saliva, wash the exposed site immediately with soap and water. Be sure to report the bite immediately to local animal control, seek medical care, and call the New Mexico Department of Health (24/7) at 505-827-0006 to determine if rabies exposure protective vaccination is necessary.
For more information visit the Rabies section of our website, NMHealth.org.