South Dakota Bat Working Group
August 2019

Bats & Rabies

Rabies (aka Hydrophobia) is a fatal, viral disease that affects the central nervous system in mammals. Rabies may be transmitted to humans by pets, livestock, and wildlife by infectious blood and saliva, usually through a bite. Without prompt medical attention rabies is fatal. Human cases and domestic animal rabies can be prevented by vaccination - it is very important to keep your pets current on their vaccinations.

Skunks are a very common source of rabies. However, In the past decade (1998-2007) 2,112 bats were tested for rabies but only 3% were rabid.

If there has been bat-human contact.... DON'T PANIC!
If a bat is present in your home and you cannot rule out the possibility of exposure (bite, deep scratch), leave the bat alone and contact an animal-control or public health agency for assistance. If professional help is unavailable. DO NOT LOOSE THE BAT! Contain the animal securely until you can contact your health department or animal-control authority to make arrangements for having it tested for Rabies.
Use the following precautions to capture the bat safely:

1. Collect the following materials:
thick leather gloves, small box/coffee can, cardboardsheet, strong tape.
2. Put on the gloves
3. Approach the bat slowly - place the box/can over the top of the bat.
4. Slide the sheet of cardboard under the container to trap the bat inside
5. Tape the cardboard to the container securely, and punch small holes in the cardboard so that the bat can breathe (= fresh sample for testing).

1. Clean wound with soap, water and a virucidal agent such as povidone-iodine solution.
2. Seek prompt, professional medical treatment!!!
3. Immunize for tetanus as indicated
4. Control the bacterial infection as indicated.
5. Immunize for rabies if indicated.

Vaccination: If you have NOT been bitten, there is NO reason to get these shots. Rabies shots have had a notorius reputation in the past including several nasty shots in the stomach. This is no longer the case. The current vaccine is an inactivated-virus vaccine and comes in injectable form. Post-exposure shots are a series of 4 small shots (CDC 2009) in the shoulder muscle. For pre-exposure protection (scientists and bat-biologists) a prophylactic series of shots consists of 3 injections.

No bat-human contact? If you see a bat in your home and you are sure no human or pet exposure has occurred, confine the bat to a room by closing all doors leading into the rest of the house, but open any windows to the outside so that the bat has a way to escape. After the bat has calmed down and regained it's energy, it will be quite happy to fly out of your house as quickly as possible. If the animal is very tired or pregnant, you may have to catch the animal as described above, and then release it outdoors away from people, small children, and pets.

FAQ's: US Gov't. Center for Disease Control

Resolution regarding bats and rabies

FAQ's: South Dakota Department of Health

2016 Rabies Report Supplied by L. Kightlinger, SD-DOH

SD-DOH Rabies Fact Sheet Supplied by L. Kightlinger, SD-DOH

FAQ's: Idaho Fish and Game Department

2018 Bats and Rabies Report


Rabies Testing?

Rabies testing of animals in South Dakota is authorized at two laboratories:

1. SDSU Animal Disease Research and Diagnostic Laboratory (see below)
Dept of Veterinary Science, Box 2175, North Campus Dr.,
South Dakota StateUniversity, Brookings, SD 57007-1396.
Phone: 605-688-5171
FAX: 605-688-6003

2. South Dakota Department of Health
615 East 4th Street, Pierre, South Dakota 57501
Phone: 605-773-3737 (1-800-592-1861), after hours
Fax: 605-773-5509

To submit any specimen for testing

Quick start

1. CALL: 800-592-1861/605-773-3368 -OR- 605-280-4810 after hours, weekends, holidays.
2. Do not damage the head of the animal by gunshot or crushing.
3. DO NOT FREEZE the body!
Instead, wrap the head/body carefully in an insulated container cooled with ice.

The following is submitted by Dr. David H. Zeman, DVM, PhD, DACVP...


Animals suspected of having rabies that have exposed a human should be euthanized and tested as soon as possible, and staff at the ADRDL is qualified to perform the needed rabies FA test. Since the FA test is so quick and reliable, after hours testing is rarely required anymore; however, ANY AFTER HOURS, WEEKEND OR HOLIDAY EMERGENCY RABIES TEST should be directed to the South Dakota Public Health Laboratory, 615 East 4th St, Pierre, SD 57501. (See below)

HOW TO SUBMIT RABIES-SUSPECT CASES TO ADRDL - To meet CDC guidelines for rabies testing, the ENTIRE BRAIN WITH BRAINSTEM must be submitted FRESH to the laboratory. This will allow for testing of both sides of the brain and brainstem as per CDC guidelines. ADRDL staff will fix the brain from domestic animals and some wild animals in formalin for histopathology examination after rabies testing has been completed.

1. Package the brain in a sterile plastic bag placed inside a crush-proof container. Submit to the lab in an appropriate leak-proof, insulated shipping container with adequate ice packs to keep specimen chilled during shipping. DO NOT FREEZE the fresh brain.

2. As always, the laboratory WILL NOT ACCEPT LIVE ANIMALS for rabies testing. Whole bodies, complete heads, or removed brains are all acceptable specimens for submission. ADRDL staff will remove brains upon arrival, at no additional charge.

3. Fill out the standard ADRDL submission form with complete information, including the rabies section at the bottom. Clearly identify as a rabies suspect and clearly indicate if human exposure has occurred with the route of exposure and date included. A referring veterinarian must be listed on the form. The submission form can be downloaded from

4. Samples arriving to the laboratory before 12 PM (noon) will have results available the same day. Samples arriving after 12 PM (noon) will be tested the next business day.

5. Additional tests, if requested, will not be performed on a rabies suspect case until the rabies FA has been completed and is negative. (See NEUROLOGIC DISEASES for submission recommendations.)

6. The ADRDL is open 8 AM to 5 PM Monday through Friday, excluding holidays. A SPECIMEN DROP-OFF COOLER is accessible to the public 24 hours a day, so samples can be delivered to the lab on nights or weekends and left in this cooler for testing the next business day. The cooler is adjacent to the loading dock on the east side of the building. The on-call diagnostician can be reached at (605) 690-1576 if problems or questions arise.

7. Testing after hours, weekends or holidays IS NOT AVAILABLE at the ADRDL.

FEE POLICY - DOMESTIC ANIMALS - The fee is $42 for South Dakota clients and $48 for out-of-state clients. This fee includes not only the rabies FA test, but also routine histopathology and additional laboratory testing (such as virology and/or bacteriology) if requested or found necessary to determine the cause of the animal's death. A $10 necropsy fee is added if a necropsy is requested for the purpose of further diagnostics. If needed, toxicology testing fees are extra. WILD ANIMALS - Wild animals that originated in South Dakota and have caused a "significant risk to human health" (see definition below), will be accepted for rabies testing at NO CHARGE to the submitter. The South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks Department pays for the testing under these circumstances and only the rabies FA test is completed (no additional testing). Wild animals that have not caused a risk to human health can be submitted for rabies testing, but the submitter will be charged the same fee as for domestic animals. If adult bats are submitted with bat pups (baby bats), only the adults will be tested.

HUMAN HEALTH RISK DEFINITION - The exposure of a human or domestic animal to saliva from the suspect animal either through a bite, exposure of mucous membranes, exposure of an open wound, or scratches. OR The exposure of a human or domestic animal to central nervous system tissue from the suspect animal either through exposure of mucous membranes or exposure of an open wound.


1. Laboratory results are reported by telephone as soon as they are available to the referring veterinary clinic listed on the submission form.

2. Test results are reported as "no test" when ANY part of the brain required for testing (per CDC guidelines) is missing for any reason (including autolysis, trauma and/or only half of brain submitted fresh) and the FA result is negative.

3. Test results are also reported as "no test" when brain tissue cannot be identified for any reason (most often due to marked autolysis and/or severe brain trauma) and the FA test is not performed.

4. In addition to the referring veterinary clinic, all POSITIVE rabies FA results from domesticated animals will also be reported to the State Health Department and Animal Industry Board in the state where the animal resided.

5. All POSITIVE rabies FA results from wild, non-domesticated animals will be reported to the State Health Department, the Animal Industry Board and Game, Fish and Parks Department in the state where the animal resided; additionally, the referring veterinary clinic (if one is listed) will also be notified.

David H. Zeman, DVM, PhD, DACVP
Professor, Head and Director of the SDSU Veterinary Science Department
Animal Disease Research and Diagnostic Laboratory - Olson Biochemistry Laboratory
605 688 5172 0ffice, 605 688 6003 Fax,


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