Sharp increase in the number of animals testing positive for rabies in Michigan | Michigan Radio
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Sharp increase in the number of animals testing positive for rabies in Michigan

Jul 2, 2018

Credit MDARD

There’s been a big jump in the number of animals in Michigan testing positive for rabies.

This year, 22 bats and two skunks have tested positive for rabies. 

Only nine bats tested positive by this time last year.

State health department spokeswoman Lynn Sutfin says it’s unclear whether there has been an increase of rabies cases in the wild or if improved monitoring is catching more cases.

She says the cases are widespread.

“Anywhere from Washtenaw and Wayne up to Alpena,” says Sutfin. “We’re definitely seeing it all over the place.”

Rabies can be fatal in humans.

Sutfin says the best thing to do is to avoid contact with wild animals.

“Don’t try to keep one as a pet or rehabilitate it yourself,” warns Sutfin. 

Here are some more tips:

  • If a wild animal appears sick, report it to the Department of Natural Resources online or at 517-336-5030.
  • If you are bitten or scratched by an animal, seek immediate medical attention and alert the local health department. A directory of local public health departments is available at Malph.org.
  • If you find a bat in your home, safely confine or collect the bat if possible and contact your local health department to determine if it should be tested for rabies. More information on how to collect a bat safely can be found on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s website.  
  • If you are unable or would prefer not to confine or collect a bat yourself, you may consider hiring a bat/wildlife removal service.
  • Protect your pets by getting them vaccinated against rabies. Even cats that live indoors and never go outside can encounter a bat that gets inside the home.
  • If your animal is bitten or scratched by a wild animal, or if you believe they have had unsupervised contact with wildlife, contact your veterinarian as soon as possible. Even if your pet is currently vaccinated against rabies, additional actions may need to be taken to prevent them from becoming infected. If possible, safely confine or capture the wild animal without touching it and contact your local animal control officer or veterinarian, as the animal may need to be tested for rabies.