Grand Teton National Park bats may be rabid

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photo credit: Leandra Boodoo, Wyoming Natural Diversity Database
photo credit: Leandra Boodoo, Wyoming Natural Diversity Database

Grand Teton National Park revealed in a Facebook post last week that a bat displaying unusual behavior was encountered by hikers along the Cascade Canyon Trail on the morning of July 9th. The bat was flying at hikers in the middle of the day along the trail which suggests it may be sick with rabies.

Bats are essential to humans and our ecosystems, and fewer than 1% of bats in nature have rabies. However, bats that act strangely or contact humans are up to 10 times more likely to have rabies. The park posting points out that rabies is a viral disease that is spread through saliva during a bite, scratch, or mucus membrane contact with an infected animal.

Because bat bites and scratches can be small, any physical contact with a bat is considered a potential exposure. Rabies is very preventable in humans with proper medical care given shortly after an exposure to the rabies virus, but it’s almost always fatal if untreated before symptoms develop.

Park visitors who have had physical contact with a bat are instructed to clean the site of contact with soap and water and seek medical attention for potential exposure as soon as possible. They should also notify the NPS Office of Public Health of the encounter. Furthermore, visitors who see a bat acting strangely, or find a dead bat, should not approach or touch it, and should notify a ranger.

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