Preventing rabies transmission

Although only about ½ to 1 percent of all bats are infected with the rabies virus, bats should be considered rabies suspects if they are found on the ground or in buildings or are active during the day.

People are considered potentially exposed to rabies from a bat when they are bitten or when a bite cannot be ruled out (such as if a bat flew into them or landed on them; see http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/PDF/rr/rr5703.pdf). All bats must be tested for rabies by a DSHS-designated rabies laboratory if they had potential or known contact with people or domestic animals or pets.

Employees designated to capture, secure, and remove animals from campus should wear protective clothing, especially heavy gloves, to protect themselves from bites. School faculty, staff, and students should be trained to respond appropriately to bat incidents.

Pre-exposure vaccines are recommended for anyone at increased risk for rabies exposure. Those at risk include animal-control officers, veterinary personal, wildlife biologists, and pest- or wildlife-management professionals who regularly work around high-risk rabies species.

Although the pre-exposure vaccine is expensive, it provides some immunity against unrecognized exposures to rabies. These vaccinations begin with an initial series of three injections administered over a 3- to 4-week period.

Once immunized, a person should undergo antibody testing every 2 years to make sure the protection continues. After immunization, a person who becomes exposed to rabies will need only two post-exposure rabies vaccinations.