Today, the Michigan DNR issued a reminder of the threat of rabies and the best ways to protect yourself, your family and your pets. Testing this year has found the viral disease in both Michigan bats and skunks.

Bats and skunks are the most common carriers of rabies in Michigan. In 2018, there were 79 cases of rabies in animals in Michigan. 77 of those cases were in bats and two were in skunks.

As of May 22, 2019, rabies testing done this year by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services has found rabies in five bats and two skunks of 928 animals tested.

May to September finds increased activity of potentially rabies-carrying animals, especially bats, and an increase in the chances of humans becoming exposed to it.

People or pets usually get exposed to rabies when they are bitten by an infected animal. There is also risk when a bat has been found in a room with people who have been asleep, with an unattended child or anytime you cannot be sure if there wasn't contact with a bat. If this happens, the bat should be collected for rabies testing.

Rabies is fatal to humans if left untreated. Treatment is given to people who are exposed to a potentially rabid animal, but treatment is not necessary if the animal can be tested and tests negative for rabies.

Tips from the Michigan DNR to protect yourself from rabies:

  • Avoid contact with wildlife. Do not keep wild animals as pets and do not try to rehabilitate wildlife yourself.
  • If a wild animal appears sick report it to the Department of Natural Resources.
  • If you are bitten or scratched by an animal, seek immediate medical attention and alert your local health department.
  • If you find a bat in your home, safely confine or collect the bat if possible (or call a company to do it for you) and contact your local health department to determine if it should be tested for rabies.
  • Protect your pets by getting them vaccinated against rabies.