big brown bat echolocation
The public is urged to report any and all contacts with batsiStock

Utah officials have warned the public to stay away from potentially rabid bats. Residents are also being urged to vaccinate pets and livestock that may come in contact with the animals.

Eight cases of rabies in bats have been confirmed by the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food this year, according to The Deseret News.

"People may not know if they've been exposed," said Chelsea Crawford, assistant state veterinarian. Crawford said people could not know if they have been bitten by a rabid bat because the wild animals have such small teeth.

She said that people can also be exposed to the disease if a bat is found in a home or brought in by a pet. Crawford added that all cases of potential exposure should be taken seriously.

"Rabies is a serious illness and it is almost always fatal once clinical symptoms are present," she said.

At least one Utah resident had found a bat in their home recently. According to Fox13 Salt Lake City, two bats tested positive for rabies in the past week.

Between 15 to 25 bats test positive for rabies each year in Utah, Crawford said.

"There is no treatment for rabies once clinical signs appear and it is always fatal. Therefore, all cases of potential exposure need to be taken seriously and reported as soon as possible," the Utah Public Health Laboratory said in a press release.

The most common way for people to be exposed to be rabies in the US if thought contact with a bat, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"Another common route of exposure [to rabies] is through contact with pets or livestock that have had contact with potentially infected wildlife," the lab said.

"Signs of rabies include obvious changes in normal behaviour like aggression, attacking without provocation, foaming at the mouth, no interest in food or water, staggering, or paralysis."

The lab urged all human and animal exposures to bats to be reported regardless of whether the bat appears to be rabid.