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Beware of Rabies in Bats

All mammals are susceptible to rabies.

North Dakota State University animal health experts are warning people to be on the lookout for rabid bats.

“Recently, a number of bats have been submitted to the NDSU diagnostic lab for rabies testing,” says Neil Dyer, director of the Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory. “One of six bats came up positive for the rabies virus.”

Being exposed to and infected with the rabies virus is very serious, and all mammals are susceptible, according to Gerald Stokka, NDSU Extension Service livestock stewardship specialist and veterinarian.

“The virus has affinity for the nervous tissue of the body and results in a progressive encephalitis (brain) condition in infected animals,” he says.

The skunk is the primary carrier of this virus in the northern Great Plains, although bats also can be carriers in this area.

“We are not certain how long the skunk can host this virus before becoming sick, but it is believed that all skunks with the virus eventually become affected by it and die,” Stokka says. “In other parts of the U.S., other species such as the raccoon, the fox and bats can carry the virus and infect other species.”

Dyer and Stokka say abnormal behavior is one indication an animal may have rabies. An example of abnormal behavior is an adult skunk or a bat out in the daylight hours or acting aggressively. Other indications a bat may have rabies are that it is unable to fly, sitting on the ground or acting aggressively toward other animals or even fighting with other bats.

If you encounter bats demonstrating this abnormal behavior, you can bring them to the NDSU diagnostic laboratory for testing, Dyer says. Results should be available in 24 hours. The bats must be dead before bringing them to the lab.

Visit NDSU’s “Rabies” publication at for more information on the disease.

NDSU Agriculture Communication - Aug. 25, 2014

Source:Neil Dyer, (701) 231-7521,
Source:Gerald Stokka, (701) 231-5082,
Editor:Ellen Crawford, (701) 231-5391,
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