PEORIA — An encounter with a rabid bat in Chillicothe last week has landed a dog a stint in quarantine of up to 30 days and another round of rabies shots.

But it could have been worse, says Bridget Domenighin of Peoria County Animal Protection Services, because the dog had been previously vaccinated against rabies.

"They recommend that immediately once something has tested positive for rabies," she said, likening the move to a person getting a booster shot. Had the dog not been previously vaccinated, then the quarantine period could have been six months or the dog would have been euthanized.

Rabies is a dangerous but preventable viral disease that affects the central nervous system of humans and other mammals. It is often transmitted through the bite of rabid animals such as raccoons, skunks or bats, but domestic animals such as dogs and cats also account for some of the reported rabies cases in the United States.

The discovery of Peoria County's first rabid bat last week isn't a rarity. Bats tend to be more active in the spring and the fall, and the county recorded a rabid bat last year. But as the disease is always fatal in humans unless treated, the Peoria City/County Health Department and PCAPS aren't taking any chances.

"You can find a rabid animal at any time of the year. Bats, for instance, are always looking for tiny spaces to live, possibly in homes. There's a chance you could find one at any time of the year," Domenighin said.

In this most recent case, the dog owner noticed his pet playing with the bat. He collected the bat and called PCAPS, which sent the animal off for testing that came back positive on Thursday.

Domenighin recommended that people stay away from wild animals as a major precaution, but says if one sees a bat that is flopping around on the ground or landing on the ground a lot, don't touch it.

"Call PCAPS. We'll come out 24 hours a day," she said.

The following guidelines can help protect people and pets from rabies:

* If you see a bat in your home, leave the room and close the door if possible. Place a towel under the door to block escape and call Peoria County Animal Protection Services at 672-2440. Do not attempt to handle or kill the bat. PCAPS will respond at any time to capture and impound bats that residents have encountered inside a home in Peoria County.

* Report all animal bites to PCAPS and the Health Department. If someone has been bitten or scratched by a wild or domestic animal, wash the affected area thoroughly with soap and water and seek medical attention immediately.

* Notify PCAPS or the local health department if you suspect you, another household member or a pet has been exposed, or even if the bat was seen in a room with a sleeping child or adult.

* If you find a dead bat in your home, call PCAPS for instructions.

* Tightly close all outside doors to prevent bats from entering living quarters or occupied spaces in homes, churches, schools and other similar areas where they might have contact with people and pets.

* Carefully examine your home for holes that might allow bats entry. Any opening larger than a quarter-inch by a half-inch should be caulked. Board up any openings to your attic, basement, porch or garage. Cap chimneys with screens.

* Be sure dogs and cats are up-to-date on rabies vaccinations by consulting with your veterinarian. Vaccinated pets serve as a buffer between rabid wildlife and humans.

* Do not handle wild or domestic animals that have been trapped. Contact PCAPS for assistance.

* Encourage children to immediately tell an adult if they are bitten or scratched by an animal. Teach children not to approach or to touch any animal they do not know.

For more information about rabies and bats, contact the Peoria City/County Health Department at 679-6603 or Peoria County Animal Protection Services at 672-2440.

Andy Kravetz can be reached at 686-3283 or Follow him on Twitter @andykravetz.