TWIN FALLS, Idaho (KLIX) – Public health officials are urging Magic Valley residents to take precautions after a bat tested positive for rabies in southeastern Twin Falls County.

The rabid bat was caught this week at a private residence southeast of Magic Valley Regional Airport, according to South Central Public Health District. The bat was caught by the property owner and the carcass was taken to the health district, which then sent the bat to a lab for testing. It is the first bat this year to test positive for rabies in south-central Idaho and the fifth in the Gem State.

“Fortunately, there have been no human cases or pet animal cases,” Brianna Bodily, public information officer for SCPH, told News Radio 1310. She said one concern of health officials is if a bat is found inside a home it is important that each family member living in the house get immunized as a precaution.

“Bat bites are extremely small and hard to see,” epidemiologist Christi Dawson-Skuza said in a prepared statement. “If you find a bat was in your home while someone was sleeping, contact your health care provider right away and, if able, bring the bat to the health district for testing.”

While most bats are harmless and do not carry rabies, according to the health district, they are the only animal in Idaho to naturally carry the virus.

“Rabies is almost always fatal,” Skuza said. “It is crucial you keep yourself and your animals away from any infected bats.”

According to the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare, rabid bats have been reported in nearly all parts of Idaho, usually from about March through November. Between 1999 and 2017 an average of 16 bats per year tested positive for rabies in Idaho.

To help keep residents safe, SCPH offers the following precautions:

  • Do not touch a bat with your bare hands. Be very suspicious of bat activity during daylight hours.
  • If you have an encounter with a bat, seek medical attention immediately, save the bat in a container without touching it and contact your district health department to arrange for rabies testing.
  • Always vaccinate your pets, including horses. Pets may encounter bats outdoors or in the home.
  • Bat-proof your home or cabin by plugging all holes in the siding and maintaining tight-fitting screens on windows. Bats can enter through holes the size of a quarter. Typically bat-proofing is best after most bats have migrated away in the fall.
Ian Waldie, Getty Images