The Maricopa County Department of Public Health is warning residents to steer clear of bats after two were found in the valley recently that tested positive for rabies.

Two people are now undergoing post-rabies exposure treatment after handling one of the bats, and a cat may have come into contact with one of the infected animals as well. Animal Care and Control is currently trying to locate the cat, which will not be a risk to the public if found before the disease becomes infectious.

Officials advise residents that any bat found on the ground is more likely to be rabid, and a good rule of thumb is to always avoid touching any bat.

It’s also extremely important that pet owners keep their dogs and cats vaccinated against rabies. Other precautions that will help reduce the spread of this disease include:

  • Keep pets safely in yards or on a leash and don’t allow them to make contact with wildlife.
  • When camping, hunting or fishing, avoid sleeping on open ground without some type of shelter.
  • Do not disturb roosting bats.
  • If you find a bat on the ground don’t touch it. Report the bat’s location to your local animal control office or health department.
  • If a person or pet has physical contact with a downed bat, place a box over the bat to contain it and make sure it is not hurt or damaged in any way. Bats must be intact for accurate rabies testing.

If you believe you pet has had contact with a rabid animal, call Animal Care Hospital immediately at 480-887-4791.