A rabid bat found in San Juan Capistrano in late October was the fifteenth discovered in Orange County this year, bypassing the eleven in all of 2018, officials said.

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The latest discovery is being treated seriously, but not being deemed a crisis.

Jessica Novillo, Orange County Animal Care’s community outreach team manager, said the county is following the protocol for bat discoveries, which calls for, among other steps, working with the Health Care Agency to keep the public informed of locations of potential exposure.

“It is important to us that our community is aware of the steps to take to keep everyone safe,” Novillo said.

A visitor discovered the latest bat alive on the grounds of the Mission San Juan Capistrano. The other discoveries of rabid bats this year have been in Huntington Beach, Anaheim, Laguna Woods, Rancho Santa Margarita, Trabuco Canyon, Costa Mesa, Buena Park, Orange and Seal Beach.

Once captured, these bats are euthanized for testing in a lab. All bats found in each of the last two years have tested positive for rabies, officials said.

The rabies virus is found in animals’ saliva and is usually transmitted through a bite. Once a person begins showing signs and symptoms of rabies, the disease is nearly always fatal, according to O.C. Animal Care.

In the last two years, one person came in contact with a bat in Anaheim in September and received preventative treatment, said Matthew Zahn, medical director of the Health Care Agency.

Bat bites may go unnoticed by the victim because bats have very small teeth. Due to this, preventative treatment to stop the rabies virus is given to anyone who may have been exposed.

Health Care Agency and O.C. Animal Care recommend several actions to minimize the risk of rabies, including:

  • Avoid all contact with wild animals.
  • Vaccinate all cats and dogs against rabies.
  • If bats are seen inside the house or other structure, contact O.C. Animal Care. Once the bat(s) have been removed, close off any areas allowing entrance into the house.
  • Immediately wash all animal bites with soap and water, being sure to flush the wound well, then contact your doctor.
  • Report all animal bites to OC Animal Care.

Anyone exposed to a bat or other wild animal should be reported to the Health Care Agency’s Communicable Disease Control Division at (714) 834-8180. To report a bat in your home, an animal bite, or a stray animal, contact O.C Animal Care at (714) 935-6848.

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