Bats About Our Town


Bats & Health

Many people are concerned about bats and rabies. Here are some basic facts. Our thanks to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife for sharing information from their website.

Who gets rabies

  • Humans, bats, raccoons, cats, dogs, foxes, and skunks are among the mammals that get rabies.
  • About one half of one percent of bats in the wild have rabies. This is similar to other animals such as raccoons.

Very few people die from bats-transmitted rabies

  • From 1951 to 2007, 39 people in the USA died from rabies transmitted by bats, and 4 from organs donated by a person who got rabies from a bat. Many of these people had handled sick bats, and did not get rabies shots afterward. (Source=Bat Conservation International website.)

How rabies is transmitted

  • Rabies is a virus that affects the nervous system of all mammals, including humans.
  • Rabies is spread when the saliva of an infected animal enters another body through a bite or scratch, or makes contact with their eyes, nose, mouth, or a break in the skin. There is little risk of contracting rabies from a bat or other animal as long as you exercise caution. People cannot get rabies from touching droppings, blood or urine, or fur.

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Avoiding rabies

  • Never handle a wild animal—if it lets you approach, it may be sick. And if it’s a bat, it may be a young, inexperienced pup, just learning to fly, and not sick at all. DO NOT take a chance, stay away.
  • An animal with rabies may be very quiet, perhaps looking almost dead, or it may be very active. A cute, lethargic animal is NOT safe. This is true for domestic animals as well.
  • Most important: make sure your pet dog and pet cat have rabies shots. That way, if they find a sick animal, they won’t catch rabies.

Potential rabies exposure

  • In suspicious circumstances, a person should get the rabies shots.
  • People usually know when a bat has bitten them. However, because bats have small teeth and claws, the marks may be difficult to see. Contact your local health department or your doctor in the following situations, even in the absence of an obvious bite or scratch. In such cases, the bat should be captured for testing:
    1. A bat is found in a room with a sleeping person.
    2. A bat is found in a room with an unattended child.
    3. A bat is found near a child outside.
    4. A bat is found in a room with a person under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or who has another sensory or mental impairment.

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Treatment for rabies

  • Wash any wound or other area that came into contact with the animal thoroughly with soap and water.
  • Capture or isolate the animal, if you can, without risking further contact. For safe techniques to capture a bat see Excluding Bats.
  • Call your doctor or local health department. An evaluation of the potential of rabies exposure and the need for follow-up treatment will be done. Arrangements to have the animal tested for rabies, if necessary, will also be made. Rabies shots after exposure will prevent rabies in people and in pets. For people, the shots are given in the arm and are relatively painless.

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