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Officials urge caution after Tahoe bat tests positive for rabies

Mountain Democrat Report

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. — After a bat recently tested positive for rabies in South Lake Tahoe, El Dorado County Public Health and Animal Services officials remind residents and visitors to take precautions to prevent rabies.

El Dorado County is an officially declared rabies endemic area, as are all counties in California, according to Chief of Animal Services Henry Brzezinski.

“This means rabies is always present in our county,” said Brzezinski. “Every year we find rabid animals here so vigilance is important.”

The bat was discovered at Pope Beach in South Lake Tahoe Aug. 14 by two individuals who saw the bat in the water and attempted to assist it. The situation was reported to Animal Services staff who retrieved the animal and received laboratory confirmation Aug. 19 that the bat had rabies. The individuals exposed to the bat have initiated post-exposure treatment.

Rabies is a virus spread through the bite and saliva of an infected animal. It is usually fatal to pets and humans if not treated shortly after exposure. Although most mammals can become infected with the rabies virus, bats, skunks and fox are most commonly the animals found to have the virus in California. Comprehensive rabies vaccination programs in the United States have meant that rabies among domestic pets is uncommon.

To prevent the spread of rabies:

• Maintain current rabies vaccinations for dogs, cats and livestock
• Don’t approach an animal that seems sick or aggressive; report it to Animal Services
• Never approach, pick up, feed or handle unfamiliar dogs, cats or wild animals
• Don’t touch a dead animal with bare hands
• Immediately notify Animal Services if you find a bat alive or dead in your house
• Call Animal Services if an animal shows signs of rabies (such as staggering, confusion or aggressive behavior)
• Notify Animal Services immediately if a person or pet is bitten or exposed to a suspected rabid animal
• Keep property free of garbage, stored bird seed and leftover pet food to avoid attracting wild animals
• Keep pet doors closed at night to prevent entry of wild animals into the home

In 2019 Animal Services identified five animals in El Dorado County (four skunks and one bat) that tested positive for rabies. Historically, most rabid animals in El Dorado County are identified on the county’s West Slope, with smaller numbers reported in the South Lake Tahoe area, according to Brzezinski.

“One thing to look for with rabies is unusual behavior of the animal,” said Doug Petri, Supervising Animal Services Officer in South Lake Tahoe.

“Although bats and skunks are generally nocturnal animals, seeing them during the daytime does not necessarily mean they have rabies. However, if an animal is acting sick, appears to be injured or is behaving aggressively, please call Animal Services.”

For more information about rabies or Animal Services, visit edcgov.us/animalservices. To reach Animal Services by phone call 530-573-7925 in South Lake Tahoe.


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