The Washington State Department of Health announced Monday that 12 bats found in public parks or private homes across the state have tested positive for rabies since August 1. This brings the total number of rabid bats found in Washington so far this year to 21, compared to 20 in all of 2016.
In a year that has also brought us hurricane sandwiches, apocalypic smokescapes, and (ugh) President Trump, a rash of rabid bats seems pretty appropriate right now. That said, we don't actually know if the number of infected bats is on the rise or if people are just more aware that this is a thing and are more likely to report strange bat behavior to the authorities.
The good news: While the idea of foamy-mouthed mammals flying around might be terrifying, transmission is exceedingly rare and you are probably safe unless you rub a rabid bat in an open wound. Besides, bat are critical to our ecosystem: They are often a first line of defense in pest control, they distribute plant seeds, and they pollinate over 500 species of flowers—including agave, which is where tequila comes from. So don't start shooting bats out of the sky just because you're afraid of rabies. Instead, leave them alone, and if you do make contact with a bat—dead or alive—call your local health department so that they can help you determine if it (or you) needs to be tested for rabies.