Tulare County officials issued a health warning Wednesday after two bats tested positive for rabies.

One bat was found in the city of Tulare and the other in south Visalia. Residents should be careful around bats, and never touch the animals with bare hands, county health officials said.

“Bats exhibiting abnormal behavior, such as being active during the day, sitting on the ground, or not being able to fly or evade contact are more likely to have rabies,” Karen Haught, the county’s public health officer, said in a statement. “Do not attempt to handle bats, whether they are found in your home, on your property, or in a public place. Call your local animal control instead.”

“Bats exhibiting abnormal behavior, such as being active during the day, sitting on the ground, or not being able to fly or evade contact are more likely to have rabies.” — Karen Haught, Tulare County public health officer

Last year, 13% of bats tested by the Tulare County Health Lab were found to have rabies.

Rabies is transmitted by the saliva of an infected bat through a bite or with contact of the saliva via a person’s mucous membranes, or an open cut or wound. Rabies is a potentially fatal illness, and can incubate for a week to several months before symptoms appear. The disease can be prevented with a safe vaccine and immune globulin.

Anyone who has come into contact with a bat, or has questions, should contact a doctor or the Tulare County Public Health Branch Communicable Disease office at (559) 685-5720.

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