Fourteen cases of rabies in bats and one in a cat have been confirmed in Utah this year, but a state health official says there is no reason for alarm.

Tom Sharpton, chief of virology at the State Health Laboratory, said that while higher than normal, the numbers still are not "all that unusual for this time of year."Of the 14 bats with rabies, said Sharpton, three were from Weber County and two from Davis County. Of the five rabid Weber and Davis bats, he noted, four were hoary bats.

Hoary bats are larger but less populous than the smaller species of myotis bats common to northern Utah, says Carolie Parker of the Division of Wildlife Resources.

Parker said hoary bats, which have a wingspread of about half a foot, usually stick to forest areas but have been found in downtown Ogden. She and Sharpton said hoary bats seem to have a higher incidence of rabies than other species.

Samuel Zeveloff, chairman of the Weber State College zoology department, said the hoary bat is the largest bat in North America.

"Bats normally avoid populated areas but rabies makes them act erratic," said Zeveloff.