Parents in Utah are being urged to keep their children away from bats amid fresh reports of rabies cases in the state.
Another two bats were diagnosed with the disease — which is nearly always fatal in humans — in the Salt Lake City area last week, with one found lying in a local skate park and the second on a residential street.
Residents are being told to steer clear of all bats, as those coming into contact with humans are more likely to have the deadly virus, and to keep their pets and kids away from the animals.
At least four other states — Colorado, Florida, Ohio and South Carolina — have also reported rabid bats over the last month, with Florida placing a county of nearly half-a-million people under a two-month alert for the disease.
Parents in Utah are being urged to keep their children away from bats in the state amid fresh reports of rabies cases (stock image)
A bat infected with rabies was discovered at Smith Fields Park Skatepark in Draper, near Salt Lake City, on August 26 — after it was reported by residents.
In the same week a second rapid bat was found on a residential street in nearby Midvale, also in the Salt Lake City area.
The National Park Service reported another bat with rabies in Arches National Park on August 25 and, at the start of June, three bats with the disease were also detected in the Salt Lake City area.
No rabies cases or deaths in humans have been reported in the state to date, but officials say on average 15 bats test positive for the virus every year.
A spokesman for the Utah Department of Health said: ‘Parents whose children frequent [parks] should ask their kids about encountering a bat, and contact [the department] if anyone touched or was touched by a bat.
The local police department added: ‘If you — or your child or teen — touched, or was touched by a bat in the skate park this week, please call the health department to be evaluated for rabies prevention medication.
‘Rabies is considered 100 percent fatal if not treated before symptoms appear.
‘If you encounter a bat, DO NOT TOUCH IT or attempt to harm it.’
Health chiefs are elevating concerns amid the discovery of rabid bats because the animals are the leading cause of rabies deaths in humans in the United States.
People are most likely to be infected in late August and September when young, potentially infected, bats have fledged and are learning to forage.
This presents a higher risk of infection because the young bats are still learning to forage and, as a result, are more likely to come into contact with people.
A bite from an infected bat, no matter the age, can transmit the rabies virus — which is passed from animal to human via saliva.
The animals often leave bites or scratches on people that are so small there is no visible wound.
And the lack of a bite mark makes a bite even more concerning, as someone could be bit by a rabid bat and not know it.
Symptoms of rabies appear one to three months after exposure and rapidly develop into hallucinations, delirium and hydrophobia — a fear of water — closely followed by death.
But the disease — which is more than 99 percent fatal in humans once symptoms appear— can be treated using an aggressive medications regime, such as receiving multiple vaccines. However, the regimen must be started on the day of exposure.
A rabid bat was also reported in the Arches National Park, which draws around 1.5million visitors every year
Less than one percent of bats are infected with the virus, official estimates suggest.
But those that act strangely or come into contact with humans are up to ten times more likely to be carrying the disease.
Some bats infected with rabies show no symptoms of the disease.
In addition to Utah residents, those in Seminole County, Florida are under a rabies alert after a rabid bat was found in the area.
The alert was declared on September 1 after the bat was found near Sunrise Community Park in the Oviedo neighborhood. It will be in place for 60 days.
Officials in Colorado also raised concerns over rabies on August 30 after a bat infected with the disease was detected in the Paonia area, in the west of the state.
In South Carolina, officials also reported rabid bats and raccoons in Oconee County in late August.
No humans were exposed, but three cats and two dogs were believed to have had contact with the bat carcass. The animals are now in quarantine.
And in Cincinnati, Ohio, there have been 14 reports of people coming into contact with bats — mostly inside their homes.
About two to three Americans die from rabies every year, official estimates suggest, with figures kept low thanks to the rapid administration of treatments and efforts to discourage people from contact with potentially diseased animals.
People who are feared to have been exposed to rabies are given Rabies Post-Exposure Prophlaxis (PEP) — a vaccine and man-made antibody treatment.
This involves injecting patients with a dose of man-made rabies antibodies to fight the infection as soon as they are exposed.
People suspected to have been exposed to rabies also receive four doses of a rabies vaccine over two weeks. The rabies vaccine contains a small spike protein from the surface of the rabies virus in order to prepare the immune system to fight the real virus should they become infected.