SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – The Salt Lake County Health Department (SLCoHD) is reminding people to avoid contact with bats and wild animals after a bat that tested positive for rabies was found in the Salt Lake City area this week.

Rabies is a viral disease that affects the nervous system of humans and other animals. People can’t get rabies from just seeing a rabid animal, and it can’t be transmitted through feces, blood, or urine. Rabies can be transmitted through infectious material, such as saliva, through the eyes, nose, mouth or an open wound.

According to the SLCoHD, a small percentage of bats actually carry rabies. Officials say a healthy bat will typically avoid people and don’t pose any threat to humans. During the day, it’s normal to see these bats hanging upside down on buildings and trees.

Bats with rabies, however, may behave unusually. SLCoHD said infected bats may go into areas they would typically avoid and spend more time on the ground. Bats with rabies are also more approachable than usual, as they may also be weak, dehydrated or unable to fly.

Harming bats is illegal in the state of Utah as all bat species are protected under Utah law. SLCoHD said bats are essential to Salt Lake Valley’s ecosystem by providing pest control, dispersing seeds and pollinating plants. The Salt Lake Valley is reportedly home to several bat species and some other species usually migrate through the area.

If you find a bat roosting on your home or is behaving normally and isn’t a threat, SLCoHD said you should leave the bat alone. If a bat is roosting in your home, such as in your attic, contact a local nuisance control agency who will then coordinate with the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources to remove the bat.

Health officials say if you find a bat on the ground or in an unusual place, you should not touch it and keep children and pets away from it. Bats can be reported to your local animal control agency.

If a bat was inside the living area of your home or you had contact with a bat, call SLCoHD at 385-468-4222 to be evaluated for the rabies vaccine. Health officials also recommend making sure pets are current on their vaccines in case they come into contact with a wild animal that has rabies.