Rabies, Bats, and Animal Bites

The possibility of rabies in domestic or wild animals is very unlikely in Washington, though it is still important to vaccinate your pets. Raccoons, skunks, and foxes are known to have rabies across the country, at low rates, and are considered rabid unless proven negative by a lab test. In developing countries worldwide, dogs are the principal animal in which rabies is found.

Rabies is almost always deadly once the virus attacks your body, but you can receive preventive treatment if you've been bitten or scratched by a bat or other potentially rabid animal.

Lewis County has had no cases of rabies is nearly 30 years. Each year, however, Lewis County Public Health and Social Services receives calls from residents to 1) assess potential exposure to rabies and 2) ensure treatment for rabies is established for residents that have been determined to be exposed to rabies in Lewis County or elsewhere.

Quick Info Series: Rabies in Lewis County

Rabies- Bat

What is Considered a Potential Rabies Exposure?

  • A bite, scratch, or mucous membrane exposure from a bat or other rabid-acting carnivore
  • Finding a bat in the room when waking up
  • Finding a bat in the room with an unattended small child, an immobile, intoxicated or mentally incapacitated person, or a pet

Touching a mammal's fur, wings, blood, feces, or urine is NOT a potential exposure.

What to do if You Suspect a Rabies Exposure

Call Lewis County Public Health and Social Serivces, 360-740-1223, only if there has been potential human exposure. We will determine if there has been a true rabies exposure and if rabies testing is needed.

Bat Exposures

Bat exposures require special consideration as bats are the only known reservoir in Washington State. Most bats are harmless, but approximately 1% of bats in the wild are infected with the rabies virus. For more information on rabies activity in Washington state, visit Washington State Department of Health's Rabies Activity in Washington.

If you suspect that a bat has bitten, scratched, or had direct contact with fresh wounds or mucous membranes, call 360-740-1223 to speak with our staff for a rabies exposure assessment. In the meantime, do not touch the bat with bare hands. If capturing the bat for testing is recommended, follow the instructions for Safely Capturing Bats for Rabies Testing.

If you have been exposed to a bite or scratch from a bat or other rabid-acting carnivore, go to your primary care provider or emergency room for medical attention and post-exposure rabies vaccinations. Your healthcare provider or ER provider should contact Lewis County Public Health and Social Services if there is suspicion of rabies exposure.

An exposure assessment is necessary when a bat is found in the same room with a person who cannot say that exposure did not occur to include an unattended child, intoxicated adult, or sleeping person(s).

What if My Pet is Exposed?

Pet-only exposure is NOT reportable to Lewis County Public Health and Social Services.

If you believe your pet has been exposed, contact your veterinarian for further assessment and obtain a rabies booster vaccination for your pet, even if your pet is vaccinated.

If you have the animal that may have rabies, you can pay to have rabies testing done on the animal by calling the Washington Animal Disease Diagnostic Lab, (509) 335-9696, or the Oregon State University Veterinary Diagnostic Lab, (541)737-3261, for more information.

If you do not have the animal that may have rabies, confine your pet for 10 days and monitor for rabies symptoms:

  • Lethargy
  • Fever
  • Vomiting
  • Anorexia/loss of appetite
  • Weakness/paralysis
  • Problems swallowing

  • Excessive saliva
  • Foaming at the mouth
  • Biting at imaginary objects
  • Anxious behaviors Aggressive behaviors
  • Disorientation/loss of coordination/staggering hind legs