The Multnomah County Health Department reported September 15, 2021, that a bat found in Northeast Portland has tested positive for rabies. This is the first animal to test positive for rabies in Multnomah County since September 2014. So far, in 2021, 10 other bats in the state have tested positive for the virus.
It’s important that domestic pets are regularly vaccinated for rabies by a veterinarian to safeguard against possible transmission in the event that they come into contact with rabid wildlife.
What is rabies?
Rabies is a viral disease of mammals that attacks an infected animal’s nervous system. Rabies symptoms in wildlife include lethargy, walking in circles, loss of muscular coordination, convulsions, irritability or aggressiveness and disorientation.
How do animals contract rabies?
Animals typically acquire rabies by eating or coming in contact with a rabid bat.
Very few bats in Oregon have rabies, and rabies in other wildlife is even more rare. Fewer than 1 percent of wild bats test positive for rabies. However, bats brought in for testing are more likely to be sick. About 8 percent of the bats tested in Oregon are found to have rabies, according to the Oregon Health Authority.
How can I vaccinate my pets for rabies?
Oregon State law requires rabies vaccination for dogs at three (3) months of age, and Multnomah County ordinance § 13.101 (B) requires rabies vaccination for dogs and cats. It’s also a good idea for pet ferrets.
You can obtain a rabies vaccine for your pet at any local veterinary clinic. There are also low cost mobile clinics offered by Good Neighbor Vet at designated locations and times throughout the region.
According to the Oregon Veterinary Medical Association, “dogs, cats and ferrets should be vaccinated against rabies. Vaccinating pets not only protects them but it provides a “buffer zone” between humans and rabid wild animals.”
How can you tell a bat is sick, and what should you do if you find one?
If you find a sick or deceased bat that had contact with a person or a pet, call Multnomah County Communicable Disease Services at 503-988-3406 for guidance on capturing or storing the bat for testing.
Bats are nocturnal animals, and spotting one during the day could suggest the bat is sick. Sick bats are more likely to be sedentary, or may be seen flopping around on the ground or otherwise acting unusual. If you find a sick bat or other sick wildlife on your property, take children and pets indoors and do not handle the animal without protection.
Learn more about the CDC’s advice on how to capture a bat.
What should you do with a dead bat?
Anyone who finds a dead bat should use a disposable container with a lid to scoop the animal into the container and dispose of it in the trash. But if you know or suspect the bat had contact with a person or pet, the bat should be tested for rabies.
Who should you contact if the bat had contact with people or animals?
If you know a person has encountered a bat or been bitten by a wild animal, call Multnomah County Communicable Disease Services for guidance, and seek immediate medical attention for any bites or scratches.
If an animal has encountered a bat or has been bitten, contact your veterinarian, Multnomah County Animal Services, and Multnomah County Communicable Disease Services for guidance.
- Multnomah County Communicable Disease Services: 503-988-3406
- Multnomah County Animal Services: 503-988-7387