TWIN FALLS, Idaho (KLIX) Southern Idaho health officials are reminding citizens to avoid touching bats to protect against potential rabies infections.

According to the South Central Public Health District five bats have tested positive for rabies since early June. Rabies can be fatal to humans and animals if not treated early. Bats are considered natural reservoirs for rabies.

Tanis Maxwell with South Central Public Health District says in a news release, “the number of phone calls we have received about dead bats has increased recently”, however Maxwell noted “that no bats in south central Idaho have tested positive for rabies and the statewide numbers do not indicate an increase in the number of infected bats”.

If you are bitten by a bat – or if infectious material (such as saliva) from a bat gets into your eyes, nose, mouth, or a wound – wash the affected area thoroughly with soap and water and get medical advice immediately.

Laboratory testing is the only way to determine if a bat has rabies. There are signs that may indicate that a bat may have rabies, such as any bat active by day or a bat that is inside a place it normally wouldn't be seen like a home or on a lawn. SCPHD also says bats that can't fly are a good indication it could have rabies. Health officials say to never touch a bat regardless if it seems healthy or not.
Therefore, it is best never to handle any bat. Plus, rabies can be easily be spread to other animals.
The Centers for Disease Control says other animals like dogs, cats, cattle, and dogs are the most common animals to get rabies. It can be prevented with proper vaccination of pets.

If you have come into direct contact with a bat or find one in your house, and you are able to safely collect the bat, place the bat into a container.

You will need to contact a South Central Public Health District Epidemiologist for further assistance. For more information, visit www.phd5.idaho.gov/rabies/