Washington is Seeing More Rabid Bats This Spring

Jun 12, 2018

Washington's Department of Health says the number of rabid bats reported for May is the highest it's been for that month in 20 years.
Credit National Geographic

As summer approaches and temperatures begin to rise, the number of rabid bats in Washington has also risen.

The Washington State Department of Health reports that as of May 1st, four bats had tested positive for rabies. It’s the highest number recorded in 20 years, and according to the department bats are the most common mammal to contract the disease.

The agency’s Liz Coleman says there is not a straight answer to why bats are the most common carriers.

“You know, that is the number one question. And I wish we knew. But unfortunately, we really don’t know," Coleman said. "We don’t know if it’s increased public awareness, if it’s a warming climate. Those are things that we don’t track.”

Coleman says the main avenue of prevention is minimizing contact with bats. According to the DOH, bats are the most common mammal to contract the disease.

“But we often have even adults and children that who will see a bat during the day on the ground and they will pick it up or they’ll touch it, and I think that’s one of our biggest messages is that teach your kids not to touch wild animals, because they do potentially carry diseases,“ she said.

Looking forward, Coleman says the agency will continue to monitor the number of rabid bats, but their main strategy is educating Washington residents about bats.

The four bats that tested positive for rabies were found in Snohomish, King and Chelan counties.