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Health department notes an increase in bat activity

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The La Crosse County Health Department had multiple bats test positive for rabies in the past couple of months.

The La Crosse County Health Department asked the public to take caution after seeing a recent increase in bat exposures.

Jennifer Rombalski, director of the health department, said staff received four reports of bat exposures in the last full weekend of August. Rombalski added some of the bats tested within the past couple of months did test positive for rabies. It is a risk the department does not take lightly.

“These bat exposures are something we follow-up on very carefully,” Rombalski said. “If they come back positive, or if we don’t have a specimen to send in to test, then an individual has to go through a series of shots.”

Rombalski says the shots stop the movement of the rabies virus in the body. Staff need to have the bat alive for most effective testing. Rombalski says the humane society can help capture bats.

“We don’t want you having contact with a bat,” Rombalski said. “If there was a potential exposure, if you think you already had contact with a bat, we are going to want to try to get that bat to determine whether or not we need to send it in for testing.”

If you do wish to capture the bat, the health department recommended placing a box or coffee can with air holes over the pat and sliding a thin piece of cardboard or something solid between the surface and the container to seal the bat. The bat should not be hit or crushed for testing purposes.

The health department said a bat exposure may have already happened if you wake up to find a bat in your room, especially among young infants and children, or someone who may have been under the influence of a substance.

Rombalski said bats are typically more active this time of the year because their young are learning how to fly. She added the change in weather may also affect their migratory patterns.

Kaitlyn Riley’s passion for communications started on her family’s dairy farm in Gays Mills, Wis. Wanting to share agriculture’s story, she studied strategic communications and broadcast journalism at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. In college, she held officer positions with the Association of Women in Agriculture and Badger Dairy Club while volunteering as a news reporter for the college radio station. She also founded the university’s first agricultural radio talk show, AgChat. In her professional career, Kaitlyn has worked in radio, print and television news doing everything from covering local events to interviewing presidential candidates, and putting back on her barn boots to chat with farmers in the field. Today, Kaitlyn can be seen covering local stories that matter to you in the La Crosse area.

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