Friday, August 22, 2014 - 12:44pm
Bats in your House are a Risk to Your Health
Bats are important to our natural environment and ecosystem, and play a role in protecting the health and comfort of people and animals. One nursing mother bat can devour as many as 4,500 bugs, including mosquitoes every night. That is a genuine public service. The problem we have with bats is when they show up in our living space. Bats tend to show up indoors more often at this time of year because young bats born in the spring are now old enough to take to the air in search of food and new places to live.
Finding a live or even a dead bat in your bedroom can be upsetting. It can also present a serious risk to your health because bats can be infected with rabies. While only a very small percentage of bats actually carry rabies, the consequences of actual rabies exposure can be catastrophic in that an untreated rabies infection is almost always fatal. Here are some tips on how to stay safe when a bat gets into your living space.
If you find a live or dead bat in your living space in the morning, there is a possibility that you could have been bitten while you were asleep. Bat bites are often hard to notice. Even though all your instincts may tell you to shoo the live bat out, or toss the dead bat in the trash, THIS IS A VERY BAD IDEA because
a. it is safest to assume that you have been exposed
b. the only way to confirm an exposure is to have the bat tested in a lab
c. if the tests are negative, you are in the clear
d. if the result is positive, or if the bat is unavailable for testing you will need to undergo rabies vaccination.
If you find a dead bat, use a paper towel or disposable rubber gloves and carefully place it in a container (cottage cheese type container) and put it in the fridge for safe keeping. Call Public Health—Animal Services at (608) 255-2345 and they will pick up the bat and transport it to the lab.
If you find a live bat, try to catch it safely. Be extremely careful when attempting to catch the bat to avoid being bitten. The most common method of capture is to wait until the bat lands on a wall or other surface, then place an empty cottage cheese or other container over it, slide the cover under and secure it. Some people use a broom or tennis racket to knock the bat out of the air and then capture it. Once safely captured, keep the bat in the room with the doors and windows closed. Be sure to not set it free.
If you kill the bat, be careful not to damage the head since the brain needs to be intact for proper testing. Put it in the fridge to help conserve the tissues that need to be analyzed and call Animal Services at the number above for pick up. Animal Services may also be able to help you capture the live bat.
Bats are the primary carriers of rabies in Wisconsin, although so far this year only 3 bats have tested positive for rabies in Dane County and 14 have tested positive state-wide.
- Jeff Golden, Public Health Madison Dane County, (608) 243-0302, firstname.lastname@example.org