An unusually high number of rabid bats have been detected in Los Angeles County this year, prompting health officials Wednesday to remind residents to avoid contact with the animals.

According to the Department of Public Health, 21 rabid bats have been found in the county, more than double the annual average of 10.

“The reason for the increase in the number of rabid bats reported in L.A. County is unclear,” said public health director Jonathan Fielding. “Regardless, it is important that all county residents understand the potential dangers posed to themselves and their pets as most of these rabid bats have been found in and around homes.

“Make sure that children know to leave bats and other wildlife alone, and keep pets away from wild animals,” he said. “If you see a sick bat or other sick animal, contact your local animal control agency.”

County officials said a resident who was trying to rehabilitate a sick bat was bitten and had to be treated for rabies.

Fielding said two dogs and a cat were found playing with live, rabid bats. If the pets had not been current on rabies vaccinations, their owners may have been forced to euthanize them.

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