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3 rabid bats found in Santa Clarita Valley

Posted: July 3, 2013 12:00 p.m.
Updated: July 3, 2013 12:00 p.m.

Nine rabid bats have been found in Los Angeles County so far this year, three of them in the Santa Clarita Valley, according to figures from the Los Angeles County Public Health Department.

Two of the rabid bats were discovered in May, one in Stevenson Ranch and the other in Santa Clarita. A third was found in Santa Clarita in June.

The recorded number of rabid bats discovered in Los Angeles County has increased in recent years, according to Public Health statistics, though why is not entirely clear.

“There is an increase in rabies amongst the bats,” said Dr. Karen Ehnert, acting director of veterinary public health for the Department of Public Health. “But why this is happening we don’t know.”

The Santa Clarita Valley typically has a high proportion of reported rabies cases in Los Angeles County because of its high bat population, according to Ehnert.

She said the local bat population is high partly because of the Santa Clara River, which provides both water and bridges for bats to roost under.

Ehnert also said bats like to roost under wavy Spanish tile roofs, which are popular in the Santa Clarita Valley.
“We created a bat roost without realizing it,” she said of the tiles.

The easiest way to tell if a bat is rabid is to observe its behavior, Ehnert said. If it is active during the daytime or is lying on the ground while the sun is out, it may have rabies and should be avoided, she said.

Residents who see bats acting this way should contact the county Department of Animal Care and Control.

Bats should never be touched or handled, Ehnert cautioned, as contact with the animals increases the risk of rabies exposure.

While they are statistically the most likely animal in Los Angeles County to carry rabies, only about 1 percent of all bats are infected with the disease, according to the Public Health Department.

Despite the low proportion, Ehnert said it is important to make sure all pets are immunized against the disease.

“It’s relatively inexpensive and it can save pets’ lives,” she said.
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