MASSILLON, Ohio (WJW) — A bat caught in the city has tested positive for the rabies virus.

The animal has since been euthanized and is no longer a public health threat, according to a Friday news release from the city health department.

“City residents are urged to be on alert and avoid any contact with bats and other wild animals (such as raccoons and skunks),” reads the release.

Residents are also urged to vaccinate cats and dogs against rabies and ensure any open windows have screens.

For questions about possible exposures, call the Massillon City Health Department’s Environmental Health Division at 330-830-1795.

Rabies is most often spread by a bite from an infected animal or if the creature’s saliva gets into an open wound or mucous membrane. Blood, urine, feces and skunk spray do not contain the rabies virus, according to the news release.

Cases of rabies in Ohio

About 120 cases of rabies in humans were reported in the U.S. between 1960 and 2018 — mostly acquired from bats — and the last case in Ohio was in 1970, according to the Ohio Department of Health.

But about 60 animals are confirmed rabid in the state every year.

A bat found in Jefferson Township, Richland County, tested positive for the virus in September 2022, FOX 8 News reported.

A bat tested in Kirtland, Lake County, was another confirmed case the prior August. Previous cases were reported in that county in 2017, 2018 and 2020.

Rabies is most commonly found in bats, skunks and raccoons, but several other species have had confirmed cases since 2000, including fox, cow, horse, groundhog and opossum.

Symptoms of rabies in animals

Symptoms of rabies in animals include behavioral changes, agitation, reflex excitability, profuse salivation or voice changes due to throat muscle paralysis, according to ODH.

Animals displaying signs of the “furious” form of the virus are dangerously aggressive and may be biting objects, other animals or humans.

Animals displaying signs of the “dumb” form of the virus aren’t excitable and are more likely to appear paralyzed

Dogs can show either form. Cats more often show the furious form before becoming paralyzed.

Symptoms of rabies in humans

Rabies in humans — though rare — is almost always fatal once symptoms appear, but it is completely preventable by seeking prompt medical care.

After exposure, symptoms may not appear for weeks or months, depending on how far the exposure site is from the brain, the type of rabies virus acquired and existing immunity.

The first signs are flu-like symptoms like weakness and discomfort, fever or headache. The site of the exposure may also feel uncomfortable, prickly or itchy.

Symptoms progress to include cerebral dysfunction, anxiety, confusion and agitation. Infected persons may become delirious, hallucinate or acquire a fear of water.

Fewer than 20 people have ever survived rabies.

What to do if you’re exposed to rabies

If you think you were bitten by a rabid animal or otherwise exposed to the virus:

  • Wash the wound thoroughly with soap and water
  • Contact your doctor and your local health department
  • Try to capture the animal without damaging its head. The only way to confirm rabies in an animal is by euthanizing it and testing its brain