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Bat found in Central Point tests positive for rabies

A bat found dead near downtown Central Point last week has tested positive for rabies.

A dog that lives not far from the intersection of Fourth and Pine streets brought the dead bat to its owner Thursday, and the owner contacted the Jackson County Department of Health and Human Services, said Jackson Bauers, the department's environmental health division manager.

Authorities sent the bat to the Oregon State University veterinarian diagnostics laboratory, where tests confirmed that it had rabies, he said.

Bauers said the dog that found the bat had been vaccinated, but its rabies shot was "slightly out of date."

Under state law, dogs and cats that don't have up-to-date vaccinations face either a six-month quarantine at the owner's expense or euthanasia.

Because the dog had been vaccinated previously and the owner responded responsibly, Bauers imposed a home quarantine that tasks the owner with preventing all contact with the public or other animals. Quarantine at a vet's office for the full six months is another option he could have imposed, he said.

"We have to use our professional judgment and decide based on the circumstances," Bauers said.

County animal and health authorities said it is especially important that people have their pets vaccinated.

"Whether it's a bite to a person or contact with a bat, having up-to-date vaccinations can save an owner a whole lot of grief," Jackson County Animal Shelter Director Colleen Macuk said.

The shelter hosts a low-cost clinic for the shots from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on the third Saturday of every month.

This is the second case of rabies confirmed in Oregon this year. The first case was a bat in Linn County.

"This time of year, the calls start coming in" reporting that people have found a bat, Bauers said.

He warned people to avoid contact with bats, especially those that exhibit odd behavior such as daytime activity or crawling or flopping around on the ground.

When a person or pet comes into contact with a bat, the bat should be submitted to authorities for testing if it can be handled safely, Bauers said.

Statewide, about 10 percent of tested bats have rabies. Only bats that have had unusual contact with humans are tested, though, so a smaller percentage of all bats actually carry the disease, Bauers said.

However, most rabies cases in Oregon are the variant of the disease that originated in bats.

"Bats are a critical part of our ecosystem, but people really should avoid them," Bauers said, noting that protecting pets who are most likely to interact with bats also helps shield people.

Reach reporter Anita Burke at 776-4485, or e-mail aburke@mailtribune.com.