Two dogs had to be euthanized after coming into contact with two rabid bats in Castle Rock earlier this week, the Cowlitz County Health Department reported Thursday.
This is the first time in nearly 10 years rabid bats have been found in Cowlitz County, said health department spokeswoman Carole Harrison.
The two rabies-carrying bats were dead when found, Harrison said. One bat was a little brown bat, and the other a big brown bat.
She said the agency will post information about rabies and how to "bat-proof" houses with screens and other methods.
Harrison said that the best way to protect against rabies is to never touch bats, dead or alive. Bats are Washington's leading carriers of rabies.
"Also, making sure kids don't touch bats if they see them is a big one," Harrison said. "Kids can be very curious."
In this case, Harrison said a Castle Rock resident's dogs were exposed to two bats, which does not necessarily mean they were bitten by a bat. It could mean that the animals had the bats in their mouths, Harrison said.
It's standard procedure to euthanize any animals that have contracted rabies, or been seriously exposed, Harrison said, because the disease affects the nervous system and is almost always lethal.
The name of the pet owner was not released. However, a man identifying himself as the owner contacted the Daily News through social media and claimed the dogs were puppies, too young to be vaccinated, and that no humans had come into contact with the bats. He said he lives five miles north of Castle Rock.
TDN was not able to confirm the identity of the man or his report with the health department.
No people have been found to be infected with the disease, but health officials are investigating potential human exposures. Harrison said the dogs' owners are being seen by a doctors.
Rabies can be transmitted not just by bites, but also through infected saliva that gets into people's eyes, nose, and mouth or cuts, according to a health department press release.
"If someone thinks they have been exposed to a bat with rabies, they should contact the health department ... and also their medical provider," Harrison said. "If it's their own pet they think has been in contact with a rabid animal, contact us, then a veterinarian."
Pets should be vaccinated against rabies on a regular basis, the CCHHS press release said.