Public Resources

Bats and Rabies

The first concern many people have about bats is rabies. Like most mammals, bats can contract rabies. However, less than one half of one percent of bats actually catch the Disease. Additionally, sick bats do not seek people out for attack; they generally search for a secluded spot to die quietly. According to the Center for Disease Control, people cannot get rabies from just seeing a bat in an attic, in a cave or at a distance. In addition, people cannot get rabies from having contact with bat guano (feces), blood, or urine or from touching a bat on its fur (even though bats should never be handled).

However, if you are bitten by a bat, or if saliva from a bat gets into your eyes, nose or mouth, seek medical attention immediately. Whenever possible, the bat should be captured and sent to a laboratory for testing. In addition, bats that are found in a room with a person who cannot reliably rule out physical contact (for example a sleeping person, a child, a mentally disabled person or an intoxicated person) will need to be tested for rabies. If contact has occurred or is suspected call your personal physician or local health department immediately. If contact has not occurred please proceed to the links above to obtain step-by-step directions on how to safely rescue the bat.

 

Learning about bats and rabies

Most bats don't have rabies. For example, even among bats submitted for rabies testing because they could be captured, were obviously weak or sick, or had been captured by a cat, only about 6% had rabies.

Just looking at a bat, you can t tell if it has rabies. Rabies can only be confirmed in a laboratory. But any bat that is active by day or is found in a place where bats are not usually seen like in your home or on your lawn just might be rabid. A bat that is unable to fly and is easily approached could very well be sick.

Rabies is a fatal disease. Each year, tens of thousands of people are successfully protected from developing rabies through vaccination after being bitten by an animal like a bat that may have rabies. There are usually only one or two human rabies cases each year in the United States, and the most common way for people to get rabies in the United States is through contact with a bat.

Those people didn t recognize the risk of rabies from the bite of a wild animal, particularly a bat, and they didn t seek medical advice. 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.

Teach children never to handle unfamiliar animals, wild or domestic, even if they appear friendly. “Love your own, leave other animals alone” is a good principle for children to learn.

Wash any wound from an animal thoroughly with soap and water and seek medical attention immediately.

Have all dead, sick, or easily captured bats tested for rabies if exposure to people or pets occurs.

Prevent bats from entering living quarters or occupied spaces in homes, churches, schools, and other similar areas where they might contact people and pets.

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