LOS GATOS (CBS SF) — The Santa Clara County Public Health Department has issued a notice to hikers in Los Gatos that a bat found near a trail has tested positive for the rabies virus, a deputy health officer said.

A hiker walking near the Los Gatos Creek Trail in Los Gatos discovered a dead or dying bat in mid-April, Sara Cody, deputy public health officer for the department.

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The hikers reported the find to San Jose Animal Care and Services, which took the bat to the health department’s lab and detected rabies based on a test of its brain tissue, Cody said.

The department then posted a notice on the Los Gatos trail warning anyone who may have come in contact with the bat.

The virus would be active in the saliva of the bat and could spread to someone who handled it, touched its mouth, exposed it to an open wound on their body or suffered a bite from the animal, Cody said.

Instances of the rabies virus in humans are very rare, with no cases of it ever reported in the history of Santa Clara County and “only one case in all of California in recorded time,” Cody said.

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Rabies, however, “is almost always fatal” to humans who become infected and so the focus is on prevention, Cody said.

Bats are the most common among animals infected with rabies and of the 25 to 55 bats the county department tests each year, two or three test positive.

Those who are exposed to rabies must undergo post exposure prophylaxis, a series of injections of a rabies vaccine.

County public health officials recommend that people never touch or feed wildlife and to report any sick or dead wildlife to Animal Care and Services, Cody said.

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