Bat tests positive for rabies in Grand Canyon park

Posted: Updated:
By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman

Grand Canyon, Ariz. -- A bat recently removed from an area along the Colorado River within Grand Canyon National Park has tested positive for rabies.

All visitors to Grand Canyon, including those who are recreating in the backcountry and on the Colorado River, are reminded to be aware of their surroundings and be alert to potential interactions with bats or other wild animals.

Those individuals who are camping in the backcountry and along the river should strongly consider using a tent while sleeping to prevent any contact with bats or other wildlife.

As a precautionary measure, anyone who comes into contact with a bat should notify a park employee and see a healthcare provider as soon as possible.

Rabies is preventable if medical treatment (called post-exposure prophylaxis or PEP) is given following an exposure to a rabid animal, but is almost always fatal if PEP is not given prior to the development of symptoms.

Rabies is a serious disease that can kill both animals and humans. Humans usually get rabies through contact with an infected animal's saliva, such as a bite or scratch. All mammals are susceptible to rabies, including bats, skunks, and foxes. In particular, rabies should be considered in animals that exhibit unusual or aggressive behavior or are not afraid of humans.

Grand Canyon National Park would like to remind visitors about the following things they can do to protect themselves from rabies:

  • If you see sick or erratic behaving wildlife, do not approach or touch them. Notify a park employee or call the park's 24-hour emergency communications center at 928-638-7805.
  • In areas where pets are allowed, make sure that pets are vaccinated and kept on a leash at all times.
  • Teach your children to tell you if they were bitten or scratched by an animal.
  • Anyone who has had contact with a bat or other wild animal in the park should notify a park employee as soon as possible.
  • Visitors are reminded to observe and appreciate wildlife from a distance.

Rabid bats have been documented in all 48 continental states.

Cases of rabies in animals are reported in Coconino County, Arizona each year; including the two bats found positive earlier this year within Grand Canyon National Park. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), "Recent data suggest that transmission of rabies virus can occur from minor, seemingly unimportant, or unrecognized bites from bats. Human and domestic animal contact with bats should be minimized, and bats should never be handled by untrained and unvaccinated persons or be kept as pets." Additional information can be found at http://www.cdc.gov/rabies/exposure/animals/bats.html.
 
Grand Canyon National Park is working with the Coconino County Public Health Services District and the National Park Service Office of Public Health and Wildlife Health Branch to protect the health and safety of visitors and wildlife in the park by testing any sick or dead wildlife.