News Releases

02/16/2024: Bat Tests Positive for Rabies in Kootenai County

A bat found in Kootenai County on February 7 tested positive for rabies reports Panhandle Health District (PHD) and the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare (DHW).

A Kootenai County resident notified PHD of a pet and potential human exposure to the bat. PHD staff advised the family to submit the bat for rabies testing. The bat was submitted to the DHW Idaho Bureau of Laboratories (IBL) for testing and determined to be positive February 13, 2024; a follow-up test confirmed the bat was rabid on February 15.

The family members who were potentially exposed to the rabid bat are receiving post-exposure shots to prevent rabies. The owners are working with their veterinarian to manage the exposed dog.

Rabies is a deadly virus that affects the central nervous system and exposure can happen any time of year. Any warm-blooded mammal, including humans, can get rabies; however, bats are the only known natural reservoir of the rabies virus in Idaho and should be avoided. While most bats do not carry rabies, an average of 15 rabid bats are detected in Idaho each year, and no area of Idaho is considered rabies-free.

The most common ways people come into contact with a bat is when a pet brings one into the home or a bat enters the home through an open door, window, or other small opening.  People sometimes wake up to find a bat in the room and may not be sure whether they have been bitten or scratched while they slept. In these circumstances, a healthcare provider should be consulted to determine the need for the post-exposure shots.
Bats should be tested for rabies if there is any chance a person, pet, or livestock had contact with it. There is no need to test a bat that has had no interaction with people, pets, or livestock.

To protect yourself and your pets, follow these guidelines:

  • Do not approach or touch a bat you find in the wild. Leave the bat alone.
  • If a bat is found on your property or in your home, never touch it with your bare hands.
  • If you had contact with a bat or wake up to find a bat in your room, get medical advice immediately. Healthcare providers may discuss the need for the life-saving series of shots called rabies post-exposure prophylaxis.
  • Call your local public health district about testing a bat for rabies. If it is determined you or your pet may be at risk of rabies, the bat can be tested for free through   IBL, after prior approval.
  • If you must handle a bat, always wear thick gloves.
    • Contact your local public health district right away about how to manage the bat and how to get it tested for rabies.
  • Contact your local Idaho Department of Fish and Game office about bat-proofing your home. Maintain tight-fitting screens on windows to reduce entry points.
  • Always vaccinate your dogs, cats, ferrets, and horses. Even indoor pets could be exposed to rabies if a bat gets into a home. Household pets and other animals can be exposed to the virus by playing with sick bats that can no longer fly normally.   
  • Teach your children to avoid bats and to let an adult know if they find one.

For more information about rabies in Idaho, call your local public health district or visit DHW’s rabies webpage:

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Panhandle Health District provides over 40 different public health programs to families, individuals and organizations in northern Idaho. From food and drinking water safety to health education and disease control, public health services are critical to ensure our community is a safe and healthy place to live, work and play.

The PHD team is made up of nurses, nutritionists, environmental health specialists, health educators and many other dedicated professionals with a common goal to deliver vital public health services.

Panhandle Health District is one of seven health districts in the state of Idaho.