Beware of bats to avoid rabies infection

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Rabies infections are extremely rare in the United States, with only approximately one to three cases seen each year. That number has dropped significantly since the 1930s and 40s when there were 30 to 50 cases during the average year. But when they do occur, they're typically transmitted by infected bats. According to a new report by the CDC, the majority of people who have died from rabies in the United States were infected through contact with a bat. This is the case even though bats represent only one-third of the 5,000 rabid animals typically seen in the United States each year. The second most common source for rabies infections in Americans is rabid dogs encountered when people are traveling overseas.

To prevent exposure to rabies, be certain to let your doctor know if you are scratched or bitten by a bat, or if you awaken with one flying around your house or bedroom, says the CDC. If you are exposed to rabies, your doctor can administer a series of shots (known as post-exposure prophylaxis) before you develop symptoms, which can prevent you from developing a rabies infection, which is almost always fatal. If you are traveling outside the United States, be aware that dogs may carry the infection.

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