Tuesday, July 19, 2016 - 8:57am

Presence of a Bat Creates Possible Risk of Rabies Exposure

This is the time of year when bats start showing up in people´s houses. These more frequent indoor appearances are happening 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. This can be not only an unsettling experience; it also can pose a serious health risk.

Bats are primary carriers of rabies, and bat bites are often hard to detect.  Finding a bat in a bedroom in the morning raises the concern that someone may have been bitten by the bat while they were sleeping. Since exposure to rabies can be deadly, it is important to do everything possible to assess this risk; and that might mean suppressing your first impulse. 
“Your instincts will probably tell you to get the live bat out of the house or throw the dead bat into the trash.  In this situation, this is absolutely the wrong thing to do, because you need to have the bat available for lab analysis to properly assess your risk of exposure,”   says Patrick Comfert, Animal Services Officer for PHMDC.
If you suspect a bat bite, and the bat is alive, try to catch it safely.  Click here For detailed instructions on how to safely capture a bat.  Be careful not to damage the bat´s head since the brain needs to be intact for proper testing. If you find a dead bat, use a paper towel or disposable rubber gloves and carefully place it in a small plastic container, such as a cottage cheese type container and put it in the fridge for safe keeping. 

Once the dead or alive bat is properly contained, call Police and Fire Dispatch at (608) 255-2345 during business hours and ask for Animal Services.  An Animal Services Officer will pick up the bat and transport it to the lab. 
If the bat tests negative after the laboratory analysis, you can safely assume that you have not been exposed.  If it tests positive, you will need the rabies vaccine to prevent infection.  If the bat is not available for analysis, the only safe course of action is to get the anti-rabies vaccination.  
To date this year, 10 bats have tested positive for rabies in Wisconsin, two of which were from Dane County.  Last year, a total of five bats tested positive in Dane County.   Comfert concludes that, “Even though these numbers suggest that the risks of exposure may be low, since the consequences are catastrophic, it is best to not take any chances and get vaccinated if you suspect a bat bite and the bat is unavailable for testing.”

Bats play an extremely important role in nature by eating enormous quantities of insects, including mosquitoes. Our role is to keep our distance and make sure that we seal up any small openings in our homes to help eliminate the possibility of an unwanted bat visitor. 

More detailed information on rabies.
More details on bats and rabies.

For information on the good that bats can do and the importance of bat conservation.


Health & Safety