Bat rabies and risk of exposure in Illinois are on the rise. In 2014, 40 bats tested positive for rabies from 17 counties in the State of Illinois. Locally, 6 were found to be positive for rabies in Cook County, 2 in Lake County, and two in McHenry County. Additional information is provided by the Illinois Department of Public Health.
Transmission of Rabies
Any mammal may become infected with the rabies virus and develop symptoms, including humans. Most animals can be infected by the virus and can transmit the disease to humans. Infected bats, monkeys, raccoons, foxes, skunks, cattle, wolves, dogs, or cats provide the greatest risk to humans. Rabies may also spread through exposure to infected domestic farm animals, groundhogs, weasels, and other wild carnivores. Squirrels, rodents, and rabbits are seldom infected.
The rabies virus is carried in the bat saliva and can be transmitted to humans through a mucus member or abrasion on the skin. The virus is most prevalent from May through September, peaking in August. Bats should not be handled except with very heavy puncture-resistant gloves.
If a bat gets into your living space, contact Dwight E. Roepenack, the health officer, at 847-588-8065. If he is not available, contact the Niles Animal Control Officer Peter Babikan at 847-588-6508 or the Niles Police Department at 847-588-6500. It is recommended to close off the room where the bat is present and wait for advice and/or assistance in removing the bat. It is best to avoid physical contact. Ideally, the bat should be tested for rabies and can be handled through the Health Department, Police Department, or the Cook County Department of Public Health Communicable Diseases at 708-633-4000.