BATS AND RABIES
This information is taken from Bats and Rabies; a public health guide, published by the CDC, Department of Health and Human Services, Bat Conservation International, Inc, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
What is rabies and how do people get it?
Rabies in an infectious viral disease that affects the nervous system of humans and other mammals. People get rabies from a bite of an animal with rabies (a rabid animal). Any wild mammal, like raccoon, skunk, fox, coyote, or bat, can have rabies and transmit it to people. It is also possible, but quite rare, that people may get rabies if infectious material from a rabid animal, such as saliva, gets into their eyes, nose, mouth, or a wound. Because rabies is a fatal disease, the goal of public health is, first, to prevent human exposure to rabies by education and, second, to prevent the disease by anti-rabies treatment if exposure occurs. Tens of thousands of people are successfully treated each year after being bitten by an animal that may have rabies. A few people die of rabies each year in the United States, usually because they do not recognize the risk of rabies from a bite of a wild animal and do not seek medical advice.
Why should I learn about bats and rabies?
Most of the recent human rabies cases have been caused by rabies virus from bats. Awareness of the facts about bats and rabies can help people protect themselves, their families, and their pets. This information may also help clear up misunderstandings about bats.
When people think about bats, they often imagine things that are not true. Bats are not blind. They are neither rodents nor birds. They will not suck blood - and most do not have rabies. Bats play key roles in ecosystems around the globe, from rain forests to deserts, especially by eating insects, including agricultural pests. The best protection we can offer these unique mammals is to learn more about their habits and recognize the value of living safely with them.
Are bats beneficial?
Yes. Worldwide, bats are a major predator of night-flying insects, including pests that cost farmers billions of dollars annually. Throughout the tropics, seed dispersal and pollination activities by bats are vital to rain forest survival. In addition, studies of bats have contributed to medical advances, including the development of navigational aids for the blind. Unfortunately, many local populations of bats have been destroyed and many species are now endangered.
How can I tell if a bat has rabies?
Rabies can be confirmed only in the laboratory. However, any bat that is active by day, is found in a place where bats are not usually seen (for example, in a room in your home or on the lawn), or is unable to fly, is far more likely than others to be rabid. Such bats are often the most easily approached. Therefore, it is best never to handle any bat.
What should I do if I come in contact with a bat?
If you are bitten by a bat - or if infectious material (such as saliva) from a bat gets into your eyes, nose, mouth, or a wound - wash the affected area thoroughly with soap and water and get medical advice immediately. Whenever possible, the bat should be captured and sent to the laboratory for rabies testing (see "How can I safely capture a bat in my home?").
People usually know when they have been bitten by a bat. However, because bats have small teeth which may leave marks that are not easily seen, there are situations in which you should seek medical advice even in the absence of an obvious bit wound. For example, if you awaken and find a bat in your room, see a bat in the room of an unattended child, or see a bat near a mentally impaired or intoxicated person, seek medical advice and have the bat tested.
People cannot get rabies just from seeing a bat in the attic, in a cave, or at a distance. In addition, people cannot get rabies form having contact with bat guano (feces), blood, or urine, or from touching a bat on its fur (even though bats should never be handled!).
What should I do if my pet is exposed to a bat?
If you think your pet or domestic animal has been bitten by a bat, contact a veterinarian or your health department for assistance immediately and have the bat tested for rabies. Remember to keep vaccinations current for cats, dogs, and other animals.
How can I safely capture a bat in my home?
If a bat is present in your home and you cannot rule out the possibility of exposure, leave the bat alone and contact an animal-control or public health agency for assistance. If professional help is unavailable, use precautions to capture the bat safely, as described below.
What you will need:
- Leather work gloves (put them on)
- Small box or coffee can
- Piece of cardboard
When the bats lands, approach it slowly, while wearing the gloves,
and place the box or coffee can over it. Slide the cardboard
under the container to trap the bat inside. Tape the cardboard
to the container securely, and punch small holes in the cardboard,
allowing the bat to breath. Contact your health department or
animal-control authority to make arrangements for rabies testing.
If you see a bat in your home and you are sure no human or pet exposure has occurred, confine the bat to a room by closing all the doors and windows leading out of the room except those to the outside. The bat will probably leave soon. If not, it can be caught, as described, and released outdoors away from people and pets.
How can I keep bats out of my home?
Some bats live in buildings, and there may be no reason to evict them if there is little chance for contact with people. However, bats should always be prevented from entering rooms of your home. For assistance with "bat-proofing" your home, contact an animal-control or wildlife conservation agency. If you choose to do the "bat-proofing" yourself, here are some suggestions. Carefully examine your home for holes that might allow bats entry into your living quarters. Any openings larger then a quarter-inch by a half-inch should be caulked. Use window screen, chimney caps, and draft guards beneath your doors to attics, fill electrical and plumbing holes with steel wool or caulking, and ensure that all doors to the outside close tightly.
Additional "bat-proofing" can prevent bats from roosting in attics and buildings by covering outside entry points. Observe where the bats exit at dusk and exclude them by loosely hanging clear plastic sheeting or bird netting over these areas. Bats can crawl out and leave, but cannot reenter. After the bats have been excluded, the openings can be permanently sealed. For more information about "bat-proofing" your home, contact Bat Conservation International, Inc (www.batcon.org).
Things to remember when "bat-proofing"
- During summer, many young bats are unable to fly. If you exclude adult bats during this time, the young may be trapped inside. Thus, if possible, avoid exclusion from May through August.
- Most bats leave in the fall or winter to hibernate, so these are the best times to "bat-proof" your home.
Common Bat Entry Points
- * Under eaves
- * Under siding
- * Under loose roofing shingles
- * Down chimneys
- * Openings around chimney flashing
- * Through vents
- * Through open, unscreened windows
- * Under or through open doors