Cook County Releases Halloween Rabid Bat Map to Highlight Rabies Prevention
The Cook County Department of Animal and Rabies Control (ARC) has released an interactive map of locations where bats who tested positive for rabies were found in Cook County. So far this year, nine rabid bats have been found. The Halloween-themed map is designed to raise awareness about rabies prevention.
“Rabies is a completely preventable disease and is always fatal to unvaccinated pets,” said ARC Administrator Dr. Mamadou Diakhate, DVM. “Ensuring your dogs and cats are current on rabies and other vaccinations is critical to their health and yours.”
According to Dr. Diakhate, a significant number of these bats were found inside people’s homes, and pets who primarily stay indoors still have the potential to be exposed to rabies. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), around 60 to 70 dogs and 250 cats contract rabies each year.
To help prevent the spread of rabies throughout the County, ARC hosts low-cost or free Partners in Prevention clinics, where rabies vaccines and microchips are administered to County pets. ARC has hosted 42 clinics so far this year with the final clinic of the season scheduled for Saturday, November 18. In 2023, ARC has helped vaccinate close to 5,000 pets against rabies and administered approximately 3,000 microchips. Click here to view rabies vaccine and microchip clinic information.
Dr. Diakhate reminds residents that rabies is almost always fatal to humans if left untreated. The viral disease is transmitted through saliva and spreads when an infected animal scratches or bites another animal or human. According to the CDC, if you’ve been in contact with any wildlife or unfamiliar animals, particularly if you’ve been bitten or scratched, you should talk with a healthcare or public health professional to determine your risk for rabies or other illnesses.
While wild animals such as bats should never be handled by residents, they do play an important role in the County’s ecosystem, consuming large amounts of insects including mosquitoes. A single, half-ounce little brown bat can eat half its body weight in insects each night.
Healthy bat populations reflect a complex ecosystem that provides the food and habitat they need. “Bats are amazing flying mammals that act as important biomonitors, helping to indicate the health of our environment,” said Chris Anchor, senior wildlife biologist for the Forest Preserves of Cook County.
The Forest Preserves has been actively surveying and researching bats for more than four decades, documenting nine species in Cook County. About half of Cook County bat species are colonial and roost in groups of hundreds or even thousands of individuals. The other species are solitary and can be found hanging alone or in small maternal family groups in trees and shrubs.
Cook County’s Geographic Information Systems (GIS) Department created the map using data provided by ARC. "Using GIS to create a themed interactive map for residents is an incredibly helpful way to display the positive rabies cases,” said Wig Ingente, GIS program coordinator.
For more information about rabies prevention, visit www.cookcountyil.gov/service/rabies-prevention.