New Philadelphia, Ohio - New Philadelphia public health officials say a second bat in the city has tested positive for the rabies virus.
Environmental Health Director Lee Finley says the bat was collected deceased in the southwest part of the city after a resident called to report finding the animal trapped by a stray cat he had been feeding.
The deceased bat was sent in for testing, and the department was informed Thursday that it had tested positive for the rabies virus.
The announcement comes less than two weeks after the confirmation of another rabies-positive bat that was collected near the Schoenbrunn Estates on the opposite side of the city.
The first bat was collected on August 27 after a resident called to report an encounter between the animal and a pet cat.
While both bats were discovered under similar circumstances, Finley says the two cases are not believed to be related.
The cat involved in the first incident was treated for rabies exposure and is currently being held in quarantine. The second cat has been euthanized. At this point, no humans are known to have been exposed to the virus.
Finley says that prior to the two recent cases, there hadn't been a confirmed case of rabies in New Philadelphia since 2009.
In light of the recent rabies confirmations, the health department is reminding the public to be aware of the wildlife in their yards and neighborhoods and to never, under any circumstances, handle bats without gloves or some other type of personal protection.
Because bats are very adept at squeezing through small openings, the health department also strongly recommends that even indoor pets be vaccinated against rabies.
“A bat can supposedly squeeze through a hole a quarter-inch in size,” Finley says. “That’s an incredibly small hole, but supposedly they’re able to go through something that size.”
As a general rule, Finley says individuals should avoid contact with and handling wild animals.
“Rabies is something that is out there in the population, so we should never be touching wild animals. They may look cute and you may see on the Disney movies where someone’s got a little raccoon sitting on their shoulder, but that doesn’t mean the average person is going to have that type of relationship with an animal. They are wild animals, and they can be very dangerous,” Finley says.
The department is also emphasizing that bats themselves are not the problem and actually play an important role in the ecosystem.
“Different animals have these strains within their population, but that doesn’t mean that every last animal needs to be destroyed,” Finley says. “We’re not trying to needlessly destroy the bat population.”
Finley says the department has been getting lots of calls recently concerning bats found by residents. He says as long as doesn’t appear sick or behaving strangely, there probably isn’t any reason to worry.
With the two cases of the virus that were recently concerned, Finley says the bats were out in the daytime and were hanging out low enough to be caught by a cat. He says those are both good indicators that something might be wrong because that’s not how bats typically behave.
City residents are encouraged to contact the New Philadelphia Health Department to report any bats behaving strangely. The department can be reached by calling 330-364-4491 ext. 1208.
City residents are encouraged to contact the New Philadelphia Health Department to report any bats behaving unusually or concerning bats found inside a home. The department can be reached by calling 330-364-4491 ext. 1208. Tuscarawas County residents living outside of New Philadelphia should contact the Tuscarawas County Health Department at 330-343-5555.
Information on bats and rabies can be found online on the Ohio Department of Health website.
Stacey Carmany, Tusco TV