Cook County's Animal and Rabies Control today released an interactive map of locations where rabid bats were found in Cook County this year. The Halloween-themed map is designed to raise awareness about rabies prevention.
“It’s important to remember that a significant number of these bats were found inside people’s homes,” said Dr. Tom Wake, administrator of Cook County's Animal and Rabies Control. “The fact that your pet doesn’t go outside is not a guarantee that it won’t be exposed to rabies.”
According to Dr. Wake, in 2018 cats were diagnosed with rabies nearly four times more frequently than dogs. “This is because we generally don’t hesitate to vaccinate dogs but have a misconception that indoor cats cannot be exposed to the virus,” he said.
Dr. Wake reminds residents that rabies is, with rare exception, fatal to humans. It is transmitted through saliva and spread when an infected animal scratches or bites another animal or human. Eleven rabid bats have been found in Cook County so far this year.
In the United States, rabies is most commonly transmitted by bats, though only about six percent of weak or sick bats captured by animal control officials in the U.S. test positive for the rabies virus, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Other common carriers of rabies include skunks, raccoons and foxes.
The incubation period for rabies is usually one to three months. Symptoms of rabies may include: an extreme or irrational fear of water, drooling, excessive salivation, dizziness, fatigue, fever, loss of appetite, delirium, fear, hallucinations, nausea, vomiting, muscle spasms, paralysis, sensitivity to light and aggression. It is important to seek medical treatment after a bite from an unknown animal.
Rabies in dogs can be seen in two forms – furious and somnolent. In the furious form, dogs are very aggressive and snap at anything around them. In the somnolent form, dogs are weak and unaware. Cats always show the furious form of the disease. Skunks and raccoons often show symptoms that are non-specific.
Cook County’s Geographic Information Systems (GIS) Department created the map using data provided by Animal and Rabies Control. "I'm glad we could use GIS to help take a bite out rabies," said Wig Ingente, GIS program coordinator.
For more information about rabies prevention, please visit the Cook County Animal and Rabies Control website.