With several bats having tested positive for rabies recently in Nebraska, state health officials are reminding residents to exercise caution around the flying mammals.

Fifteen animals have tested positive for rabies in Nebraska so far this year, 12 of them bats. Five of the positive bats have been reported in the metropolitan area and surrounding counties: three in Omaha, one in Bellevue and another in Louisville.

Bats are at peak activity this time of year, which increases the possibility of exposure.

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Dr. Bryan Buss, state public health veterinarian, said bats are responsible for carrying much of the rabies virus in Nebraska. People should be cautious around them and other wild animals, including skunks, another common rabies carrier.

Rabies affects the nervous system in humans and other mammals. A person can contract it through a bite, scratch or saliva of an infected animal. Health officials also cautioned residents to take potential exposures seriously. While rabies in humans is preventable through prompt medical care, it usually is otherwise fatal. No human cases of rabies have occurred among Nebraskans since the 1920s.

Protect yourself, your family and pets from rabies

If bitten or scratched by an unfamiliar animal or bat, wash the area with soap and water and seek medical attention.

Call your local animal control agency to report a bat in your living space. It is important not to touch, hit or destroy the animal. Do not try to remove it from your home. It may be possible to test the bat and avoid the need for rabies treatment.

Keep vaccinations up to date for pets and other animals.

Seek medical assistance if you suspect that you or your pets have been exposed to rabies.

Find more information on bat-proofing your home, click here go to cdc.gov/rabies/bats/management/index.html.

For more information about rabies, visit cdc.gov/rabies.