• The potential exposure may have happened last weekend
  • Those who had physical exposure with a bat should wash the area and seek medical attention
  • One cannot discern if a bat is rabid just by looking at it

Health authorities are looking for any recent visitors to a national monument who may have encountered a bat that was "acting strangely." Bats engaging in strange behavior may be a sign of rabies, they warned.

The TriCounty Health Department (TCHD) made an announcement about the potential exposure Thursday. The encounter would have happened at Dinosaur National Monument "on or around" last Sunday, May 28.

The agency recently learned that the bat had "encountered visitors" that day and sought to identify and inform the unidentified visitor/s of the potential risks.

"(A)ny bat acting unusually may be carrying the rabies virus, and should not be touched or handled," the TCHD noted in its announcement, adding that "any physical contact with a wild bat should be considered as a potential rabies exposure."

Rabies is "most often" transmitted through direct contact with the saliva or brain/nervous system tissue of an infected animal, such as through bites or scratches. Most rabies cases reported to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are associated with wild animals like raccoons, skunks and foxes, though it's worth noting that any mammal can get rabies.

However, in the case of bats, which are said to be the most commonly reported rabid animal in the U.S., the scratch or bite may be so small that it's not even noticeable. This is why those who may have been exposed, even if they aren't sure, are advised to consult a health care provider for the next steps they should take.

While rabies is a preventable disease in humans as long as it's treated soon after exposure, it is "nearly always fatal" once the clinical signs already appear.

"Visitors who have had physical contact with a bat should clean the area with soap and water immediately and seek medical attention for post-exposure medication as soon as possible and notify the National Parks Service Office of Public Health ( of the encounter," the TCHD noted.

To be clear, most bats don't have rabies — just 1% of bats in nature have it, the TCHD noted. Moreover, these creatures play a very important role in the ecosystem around them.

However, one cannot discern whether a bat is rabid or not just by looking at it. This is why the CDC recommends that people stay away from bats to protect both them and the bats and to seek medical attention should they end up coming in contact with these animals.

Pictured: Representative image of a bat. Jose Miguel Guardeño/Pixabay