Written by By Becky Gidick, CNN
It is the first death from rabies in Idaho since 1978, according to the Public Health Division of the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare. The disease was confirmed Thursday morning after the person arrived at the hospital suffering from neuroleptic and other neurological disorders.
There is an outbreak of Western rabid skunks in the state, according to the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare.
“The majority of rabid skunks in Idaho have been found in west-central Idaho, but others have been found in cities, towns and rural areas around the state,” said Keith Atteberry, Chief of the Rabies Prevention Program at the Public Health Division of the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare.
“Wherever we find skunks, we find rabid skunks,” he said.
This outbreak of rabid skunks coincides with a major outbreak of the West Nile virus in Idaho, one of the highest incidence rates in the nation, according to the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare.
The officials said the case of rabies proves that bats can be the source of rabies and are the most prolific and prolific problem for public health in Idaho.
“We’re doing our best to educate people about this new case, and the important role bats play in the transmission of this disease,” Atteberry said.
“During this outbreak of rabid skunks, our Wildlife Biologists are out telling people about the risk of coming into contact with bats and reminding the public of the importance of properly disposing of bats, particularly those that have died of rabies. We’re also reminding pet owners to never feed bats, as feedings of bats can spread rabies to their pets,” Atteberry said.
Under Idaho law, trapping and holding wild animals is illegal to help control their populations.
“Since people in Idaho must immediately comply with this law, it’s important to understand that if you find any wild animal that is dead, you are not allowed to move it for humane reasons,” Atteberry said.
“This law helps protect people and their pets from handling the deceased animal. We are reminding the public that both ways should be exited from the vehicle, the wildlife should be brought to the side of the road, or people should contact Wildlife Biologists for assistance if they locate any stray animals,” he said.
Bats only carry rabies. They don’t transmit the disease to people or pets. Humans and wildlife should avoid touching bat saliva, which is the main way rabies virus is transmitted to people and animals. People who have had contact with bats and their saliva should be vaccinated against rabies.
Earlier this month, wildlife biologists killed more than 50 bats on Green Pastures Road in the Sun Valley area of Idaho.