CLARK COUNTY, Ill. (WTWO/WAWV) — The Illinois Department of Public Health is reminding the public to be careful as the number of rabies cases in the state due to contact with infected bats is over 2 dozen.

According to a press release from the Illinois Department of Health, there have been over 2 dozen cases of rabies in Illinois this year so far. With bats being the most common source of possible infection in the state, the Illinois Department of Health is reminding people to be careful, take precautions, and stay educated.

It’s important to be aware that exposure to rabies from bats is increased during the summer months, specifically in July and August. The disease can also be spread from animals like foxes, coyotes, raccoons, and skunks. 

Within the year so far, 27 cases of bats with rabies have been reported across 14 counties in Illinois. The release continues and outlines the specific locations of each case. There have been 5 rabid bats each in Kankakee and Lake counties, four in Cook County, and three in McHenry County. Rabies has also been found in bats in Bureau, Clark, DeKalb, Macon, McLean, Peoria, Rock Island, Sangamon, Wayne, and Will counties. 

“Rabies is a fatal but preventable disease,” said IDPH Director Dr. Sameer Vohra. “It is important that Illinois residents know how to prevent rabies exposure to protect themselves and their loved ones. Rabies can be prevented in a number of ways including vaccinating pets, being cautious around wildlife, and seeking medical care immediately after a potential exposure. If exposed, please seek medical attention immediately.” 

The rabies virus affects the nervous system and the brain. People are able to get rabies from being bitten by an infected animal or by an infected animal’s saliva getting into the nose, eyes, mouth, or an open wound. Waking up to find a bat in the room is also considered an exposure.

A bat that is out during the day, on the ground, or unable to fly is more likely than other bats to be infected with rabies. Never handle a wild bat. 

“It is also recommended to take steps to protect your pets against exposure to rabies,” said Dr. Mark Ernst, Illinois State Veterinarian. “Illinois law requires that all dogs and cats 16 weeks of age and older be vaccinated for rabies and registered with their county. If an animal bites a person or your pet is bitten by another animal, the local animal control must be contacted for quarantine information.” 

For tips to protect your pets:

  • Keep your dogs and cats up to date on rabies vaccination per state law and to protect them against an exposure. Also, horses, sheep, cattle, and ferrets can also be vaccinated against rabies.
  • Call your veterinarian if your animal has been exposed to a high-risk animal, especially bats

For tips to prevent the spread of rabies:

  • Do not touch, feed, or unintentionally attract wild animals with open garbage cans or litter.
  • Never adopt wild animals or bring them into your home. Do not try to nurse sick wild animals to health. Call animal control or an animal rescue agency for assistance.
  • Teach children never to handle unfamiliar animals, wild or domestic, even if they appear friendly. “Love your own, leave other animals alone” is a good principle for children to learn to reduce the risk of exposure to rabid animals.
  • Maintain homes and other buildings so bats cannot get inside.
  • If a bat is in your home, do not release the bat outdoors until speaking with animal control or public health officials.
  • After consulting with animal control or public health officials, the bat may need to be captured for rabies testing to determine if you need preventative treatment or if your pet may have been exposed.

Steps you can take to capture the bat if animal control is not available:

  • When the bat lands, approach it slowly, while wearing thick gloves, and place a box or coffee can over it. 
  • Slide a piece of paper or cardboard under the container to trap the bat inside.
  • Tape the cardboard to the container securely, and punch small holes in the cardboard, allowing the bat to breathe and call animal control
  • Do not come into physical contact with a bat
  • If the bat is dead, put it in a plastic container and keep it cool while waiting for animal control to pick it up. 

For the full press release, visit the Illinois Department of Health’s Facebook page and for more information about rabies and how to prevent exposure, visit the rabies webpage on the Illinois Department of Public Health website.