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It’s late summer, when tomatoes ripen, 18-year-olds leave for college – and flustered Iowans run around their homes swinging tennis rackets, fish nets and soup pots.
Bat-in-the-house season has begun.
Kelly Volker, co-operator of Critter Control, had little time Monday to talk about the annual insanity. “Our phones are going crazy,” the Des Moines businesswoman said.
Most of the calls are from people whose home life suddenly includes little winged mammals. “We get calls about bats all year, but this is the busiest time of the year for them,” Volker said. That’s mainly because young bats, which were born in spring, now are taking wing on their own. Like many adolescents, they’re prone to mistakes. One of the worst errors they can make is taking a wrong turn in someone’s attic and winding up in a bedroom or kitchen, where they often face shrieking humans, hissing cats and the deadly potential of a Louisville Slugger.
Critter Control and similar companies help capture and remove individual bats. If bats have colonized a house, the companies install a one-way exit device in the attic, then plug up all other tiny holes the creatures can use to get in the house. The tedious process can cost thousands of dollars.
The indoor bat season lasts several weeks and is mostly a nuisance. The main danger is from the rabies virus, which bats often carry.
The Iowa Department of Public Health has received reports of 11 rabid bats this year, which is typical. No human cases have been reported in the state this year, but people who believe they might have been bitten are urged to seek medical attention.
Dr. Ann Garvey, a veterinarian who is the state’s deputy epidemiologist, said rabies “is 100 percent preventable through prompt, appropriate medical care.”
Rabies is carried in the saliva of an infected animal, and bat bites are not always visible. Public-health officials say anyone who has physical contact with a bat should wash the contact area thoroughly with soap and water.
If a bat is found in the same room as an unattended young child, a sleeping person or someone who can’t reliably communicate what happened, the health department recommends treating the incident as a possible exposure and seeking medical attention.
Garvey recommends trying to capture the bat if anyone has been bitten or possibly bitten. The health department said many Iowans falsely believe that it’s illegal to kill a bat. It isn’t, and Garvey said killing a bat can be a way to preserve it for testing. There’s a big caveat, however, and we’ll try to explain it delicately. It’s hard to test an animal’s body for the rabies virus if the body lacks an intact brain. The most common household methods of dispatching bats could pose a conflict with this laboratory need. Garvey said that to be safe, members of the public who want a bat tested might consider capturing it alive and bringing it to a veterinarian to have it euthanized. Her department recommends putting a box over a bat after it lands, then sliding a piece of cardboard underneath and securing the whole package with duct tape. Gloves should be worn throughout the process.
The University of Iowa Hygienic Laboratory and Iowa State University veterinary school test animals for rabies. Garvey said many animal-control officers and veterinarians will help members of the public with the process of getting the animal to a lab. “The laboratories prefer that the animals be euthanized before they are submitted, however they may accept live bats as long as the container is well labeled and the submitter calls the laboratory ahead of time to make arrangements for drop-off,” she said in an e-mail Monday. Either dead or alive, she said, the bat should be kept cool but not frozen. She recommends putting the bat in a refrigerator or in a cooler with ice.
One more safety tip: If you’re going to put a bat or a bat carcass in your refrigerator, either tell your family what’s in the package or bone up on heart-attack response methods.
Credits: By Tony Leys - DesMoinesRegister.com