A record number of rabid bats have been found in Los Angeles County this year, public health officials said Monday as they urged residents to avoid contact with any bats or wild animals.
So far this year, health officials have confirmed rabies in 45 bats. The previously record was set last year, when 38 rabid bats were found.
"The reason for the increase is unclear," county Director of Public Health Dr. Jonathan Fielding said. "Regardless, it is important that everyone understand the potential dangers posed to themselves and their pets as most of these rabid bats have been found in and around homes."
County health officials said there have been several instances this year of people or pets encountering rabid bats in front or back yards and occasionally inside homes.
Anyone exposed to a bat should seek immediate medical attention, according to health officials, who noted that a bite from a bat can be difficult to see on the skin or on a pet. "Thankfully we have very effective post-exposure treatment and vaccine, which means there has not been a locally acquired case of human rabies in Los Angeles County in over 50 years," Fielding said.
According to the county, an average of only 10 rabid bats are found every year.
According to a city-released public health guide, an unattended bite from a rabid bat can result in death.
People who come in contact with a bat through bites or any other infectious material such as saliva, should seek medical attention immediately. If a bat is discovered in a room where a child or mentally impaired person has been in, it is best to seek medical advice and have the bat tested for rabies, according to the guide.