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Health officials issue rabies reminder


State and local public health officials are reminding Montanans to be aware of the risk for exposure to rabies as summer approaches. Encounters between humans and wild animals often increase in spring and summer months because of the time spent hiking and engaging in other outdoor activities.

Rabies is a fatal disease. The rabies virus is carried in the saliva of infected warm-blooded mammals and is usually transmitted to people and other animals through a bite.

Bats are a great concern in Montana because a bite may not be noticeable, and they are distributed statewide. From 2013-2017, 95 animals tested positive for rabies at the Montana Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory, and 71 (75%) were bats.

In addition to bats, 21 (22%) of the rabies positive animals from 2013-2017 were skunks. This demonstrates these animals are also at high risk to develop rabies. Rarely, domesticated animals, such as dogs, cats, and livestock, can be infected from exposures to bats and skunks.

“Rabies can be prevented by avoiding physical contact with stray or wild animals and seeking preventive treatment if you think you have been exposed,” said Jen Fladager, a nurse with the Department of Public Health and Human Services (DPHHS).

In 2017, administration of treatment to prevent infection was recommended to over 200 individuals by local public health officials.

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