Rabies is nearly 100 percent fatal, but it can be prevented by seeking medical treatment before symptoms arise. The rabies virus is spread through the saliva of an infected animal. While an animal bite is the most common way it's spread to humans and animals, it's also spread when saliva or neurological tissue from a rabid animal enters the eyes, mouth, nose or break in the skin. Health officials say that if a bat allows a human to touch it, that animal is probably sick.

Protect yourself by not handling bats and other wildlife. If you suspect an animal is rabid, contact your local animal services department. Contra Costa Animal Services can be reached at 925-335-8300.

Get your domestic animals vaccinated: They can transmit the disease between wildlife and humans. Low-cost rabies vaccinations for dogs and cats are available through Contra Costa Animal Services.

If you're been bitten by a wild or domestic animal, wash the wound thoroughly and seek immediate medical attention. Report the possible rabies exposure to your local animal services and public health departments. Contra Costa County Public Health can be reached at 925-313-6740.

Do the same if you have touched, or have been touched, by a bat. No physical contact should be ruled out as a potential danger, so call animal services and public health if you find a child or disabled person in the presence of a bat.

If your domestic animal has been bitten by a bat or found in the presence of one, call animal services and take the pet to a veterinarian for evaluation.

Symptoms typical of a rabid animal:

  • Behavior changes (for a wild animal, that includes a loss of fear of humans and disruption of normal day/night cycle).

  • Gait/postural changes.

  • Decreased appetite.

  • Excessive salivation.

    Symptoms of rabies in humans, which could appear days, weeks or months after exposure:

  • Irritation, prickling or itching sensations at bite site.

  • Fever, headache.

  • Confusion, anxiety, stress and tension.

  • Impaired swallowing.

    For more information, visit cchealth.org/rabies or cdc.gov/rabies.

    Source: Contra Costa Health Services