Prophetstown family undergoes treatment after rabies exposure

PROPHETSTOWN, Illinois -- A family of six had to undergo rabies treatments after being exposed to a rabies in their home.

According to the Whiteside County Health Department administrator, Beth Fiorini, the bat was found in a home in Prophetstown, was sent in for testing, and came back positive for rabies.

Two adults, four children and three pets were exposed to rabies.  Fiorini said the family had to undergo treatment for the exposure.  The pets were not up to date on their vaccinations and were euthanized.

"The trauma of the family losing their pets, they’re traumatized, they live with them, they love them," said Fiorini. "But we cant let the whole county be at risk for rabies spreading which is why we’re telling people get your animals vaccinated."

Alternatively, owners can put their animals in a six-month quarantine, but Fiorini said finding space is difficult and can be costly; roughly $2,000.

In Illinois and Iowa, dogs are required to be vaccinated for rabies.  Whiteside County imposes a $200 fine for owners who don't vaccinate.  While rabies is present in Whiteside County, however, Animal Control is giving owners some leeway.  They are waiving the fine if owners get their pets vaccinated within one week.

"We want to give them an incentive to get their animals vaccinated," said Fiorini.

At Happy Tails Humane Society in Rock Falls, president Mark Razo said rabies vaccinations are a top priority.  They make sure every animal there has been vaccinated before volunteers, staff or patrons handle the animals.

"We should be on high alert with the county," he said. "It's only in one town, but we don't know, it could be elsewhere."

Editor's note: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that starting in January 2019 cats would have to be vaccinated for rabies. Misinformation that circulated about the issue was cleared up in an Associated Press report -- click here.