You’ll probably be hearing a lot about rabies and West Nile Virus in the coming months, if only because summer is here and that’s when the mosquitoes breed and the bats get sick.
The Santa Clarita Valley’s first rabid bat of the year actually beat the summer heat, showing up in Stevenson Ranch in May. It was found lying dead outside of a house.
Bats are the usual carriers of rabies, which spiked dramatically in Los Angeles County in 2011 and 2012. Public health officials don’t know why. A normal year sees just eight to 10 rabid bats across the county. Last year there were 56 – the most since anybody started counting them in 1961 – and the highest concentration, 17, were found in the SCV. No part of the valley was spared; they were spread evenly from one end to the other.
The Stevenson Ranch bat was the sixth found so far this year in the county. Another one flew around a house in Lancaster during daylight before settling down.
Distribution of rabid bats in Los Angeles County so far this year.
That’s a fairly sure sign. Bats are supposed to fly at night. If you see one flying in daytime, or flopping around on the ground, or checking out the family dog dish, or dead, don’t touch it. Instead call Animal Control.
And be sure to vaccinate your pets. If Animal Control officials suspect your pet has been bitten, they’ll quarantine it for six months. Proper vaccinations cut the time to 30 days of home detention.
If you’re bitten, call 9-1-1.
Don’t worry too much about bats that fly at night. Fewer than 1 percent of bats have rabies, and about 85 percent of those that exhibit the symptoms have something else wrong with them.
As for West Nile Virus, it’s headed this way from Los Angeles and the San Fernando Valley. Mosquitoes carry it. There have been 13 reported cases so far in L.A. County this year, and within the last week it reached Van Nuys.
We’ll tell you more about it when it hits the SCV, which shouldn’t be take long.
For now, make sure you don’t have any standing water in your yard. If you’re outdoors where mosquitoes are biting, wear a long-sleeved shirt and pants and spray yourself with bug repellant.