• Bat on Martha's Vineyard tests positive for rabies

    Updated:

    A bat found in Tisbury has tested positive for rabies, marking the first positive test for the disease in a bat in over two decades on Martha's Vineyard, according to an alert posted on the town of Tisbury’s website.

    The bat tested positive at the Massachusetts State Public Health Laboratory and the Tisbury Board of Health was notified on Feb. 21, the alert said. And although bats commonly carry rabies, this is the “the first time a rabid bat has been documented on Martha’s Vineyard since testing began in 1985,” according to the town.

    Rabies can be spread through saliva or a scratch and is preventable if the exposed person gets rabies prophylaxis.

    The alert noted that the MDPH tested 889 bats in 2018 from across Massachusetts and 26 – or 3 percent - tested positive for rabies.

    If you think you may have been exposed believe you may have been exposed e contact the MDPH, Division of Epidemiology and Immunization at 617-983-6800.

    Tips for rabies prevention from MDPH

    How can I keep myself and others from getting rabies?

    • Teach children to never approach animals they don’t know – even if they appear friendly.
    • Report any animal that behaves oddly to your local animal control official.
    • Enjoy wild animals from a distance. Do not keep wild animals as pets. This is against the law in Massachusetts.
    • Make sure your pets are vaccinated against rabies. By law, all dogs, cats and ferrets must be regularly vaccinated against rabies.
    • Keep your chimney capped and repair holes in attics, cellars, and porches to help keep wild animals like bats out of your home.

    What you should do if you think you’ve been exposed to rabies:

    If you are bitten or scratched by a bat:

    • Wash the wound with soap and water right away for 10 minutes.
    • Call your doctor or MDPH. They can help you determine if you need to be treated for rabies exposure.
    • If the bat can be safely captured, call your local Board of Health to have the bat submitted for rabies testing.

    What you should do if you think your pet has been exposed to rabies:

    • If your pet has direct contact with a bat or is found in the same room with a bat:
    • Call your veterinarian to help you determine if the animal needs medical attention.
    • In some cases, it may be necessary to confine your animal and watch it to see if it develops signs of rabies. Your local Animal Inspector or Animal Control Officer can help you determine if this is necessary.

    Capturing a bat | What to do if a bat is in your home | Bat inspection in homes | Rabies

    For more information on rabies prevention, contact the MDPH Division of Epidemiology & Immunization at 617-983-6800, visit the MDPH website at www.mass.gov/dph/rabies or contact your local Board of Health at the following numbers:

    Aquinnah Board of Health (508) 645-2300
    Chilmark Board of Health  (508) 645-2105
    Edgartown Board of Health (508) 627-6120
    Oak Bluffs Board of Health (508) 693-3554
    Tisbury Board of Health (508) 696-4290
    West Tisbury Board of Health  (508) 696-0105

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