Bats and rabies
Bats are the most common source of rabies here in Washington state. Between 2007 and 2011, 78 (6%) of the 1,365 bats tested were rabid; 9 of the 78 were from King County. Skunks, raccoons, and foxes are reservoirs for rabies elsewhere in the country. Rabies is transmitted when an infected animal bites or scratches a person's skin. Public Health should be contacted if a person has been bitten or scratched by a bat, handled a bat with bare hands or if a bat was found in a room where people have been sleeping or young children playing.
Do not release a bat that may have exposed a person or a pet – it may be needed for rabies testing. Post-exposure rabies vaccination of a person after exposure is highly effective in preventing rabies.
Rabies is one of the most feared diseases because it is virtually 100% fatal. It is caused by the rabies virus and is usually transmitted by the bite of a rabid animal. While human rabies is rare in the U.S., ranging from one to seven cases a year, rabies is a significant disease worldwide causing 55,000 deaths a year. India, China and Africa have the highest number of cases. Globally, nearly all human cases are contracted from a dog bite, while in the U.S. almost all cases are due to the bite of a rabid bat. In Europe, the U.S. and other developed countries, human rabies is controlled by vaccinating dogs and cats and by administering a series of post-exposure rabies shots to people exposed to a potentially rabid animal.