San Juan County bat tests positive for rabies

Submitted by San Juan County

A bat collected in San Juan County was recently sent for testing to the Washington State Public Health Lab and was determined to be positive for rabies. Treatment to prevent rabies was recommended for two individuals who were determined to have had potential exposure to the bat.

Rabies is a rare, but very serious animal-carried disease. It is a fatal disease in humans and some animals, but it is preventable if appropriate medical care is received after a potential rabies exposure. San Juan County Health and Community Services followed up on reports of potential rabies exposures to determine the risk to human health, which led to the testing of this bat.

Bats are important for our ecosystem in Washington; however, they can also carry rabies. In Washington, bats are the only known mammal to carry rabies with less than one percent of bats in the wild infected with rabies. However, all mammals are susceptible to rabies and rabies can be transmitted from infected bats to other mammals. Healthy bats typically avoid contact with people, and there is no reason to try to trap them. This will lead to unnecessary potential exposure.

You can prevent rabies by not touching or handling wild animals, especially bats.

Teach your children never to touch or handle bats, even dead ones. Have your children tell an adult if they find a bat at home, at school, or with a pet.

Do not feed wild animals or keep them as pets.

Keep bats out of your living space by bat-proofing your home (humanely excluding bats). The Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife provides more information here:

If you find a bat in your living space, call San Juan County Health and Community Services so we can help determine if the bat needs to be tested for rabies. Never handle a bat with bare hands, and only capture bats that have had direct contact with a person or pet.

Vaccinate cats, dogs, and ferrets.

For additional information:

Media Contact: Kyle Dodd, Environmental Health Manager,, 360-370-7524

About San Juan County’s Department of Health and Community Services

San Juan County’s Department of Health and Community Services is responsible for community and environmental health, mental health and substance abuse programs, senior services, affordable housing projects, and more. The department has staff and offices on Lopez, Orcas, and San Juan Islands. For more information about San Juan County’s Department of Health and Community Services, visit