Rabies and West Nile virus found in Jackson County animals

A bat found in Central Point on Aug. 1 was confirmed to have had rabies, and a dead scrub jay found in Medford two days earlier tested positive for West Nile virus.

Jackson County Health & Human Services reported the bat is the first to test positive for rabies in the county since May 2013.

"It was on the ground flopping around and was caught by a dog," said Jackson Baures, county public health division manager, adding that the dog, which had been vaccinated, is OK.

The bat was sent to the Oregon State University Veterinary Diagnostics Laboratory in Corvallis for testing.

Baures said the incident is a good reminder to keep away from bats and to get pets vaccinated against the disease. 

"You should just assume that any bat you see is rabid. Stay away from bats," Baures said. "They're good for the environment, but don't catch and handle them."

Rabies is a viral disease that attacks the central nervous system. It is "invariably fatal once symptoms appear," county health officials said.

Symptoms include a fever, headache, nausea, vomiting, agitation, excessive salivation, hallucinations and partial paralysis, according to the Mayo Clinic. Exposures are usually through a bite, but the disease also can be transmitted through saliva contact to your eyes, nose, mouth or an open wound. 

County health officials said anyone who is bitten or scratched by a bat should clean the wound and seek medical attention right away. Pet owners who believe their animal has a wound inflicted by any wild animal should contact a veterinarian immediately. 

Dogs and cats that are bitten and do not have current rabies vaccinations are subject to euthanasia or six-month quarantine under Oregon law, county health officials said. 

County residents can reduce their risk by not feeding wildlife, keeping garbage in secure containers, feeding pets indoors, sealing openings in attics, basements, porches, sheds and barns, and screening chimneys to keep bats and other wildlife out. 

"Fortunately, human rabies is very rare in the United States, but we want to keep it that way," Baures said.  

The dead scrub jay that tested positive for West Nile virus was found in northeast Medford July 30, adding to four mosquito pools that tested positive for the virus in Jackson County this year. 

Jackson County Vector Control reported the virus has also popped up in Umatilla, Union, Malheur and Wallowa counties in Oregon this year. 

The disease is spread among humans and animals by mosquito bites. Most people who are bitten do not become sick, though symptoms such as fever, head and body aches, a rash, shaking, and swollen lymph glands can occur. People 50 and older, those with compromised immune systems, or those with diabetes or high blood pressure are more at risk. 

Vector Control officials urged area residents to reduce sources of standing water on their property. Flooded fields, bird baths, wading pools, unused swimming pools and old tires can all serve as breeding grounds for mosquitoes.

"If it holds water for seven days, it can produce mosquitoes," a Vector Control news release said. 

Water troughs and ornamental ponds can be stocked with mosquito fish to help reduce the bugs' presence. Those fish can be picked up for free at the Vector Control offices, 555 Mosquito Lane in Central Point. 

County residents should also make sure screen doors and windows fit snugly and are in good condition to reduce exposure. Wearing long-sleeved shirts and pants while outside also can help, along with use of mosquito repellents that contain DEET, oil of lemon, eucalyptus, IR3535 or picaridin. 

Reach reporter Ryan Pfeil at 541-776-4468 or rpfeil@mailtribune.com. Follow him at www.twitter.com/ryanpfeil.

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