While bats are overwhelmingly advantageous to our environment, they are the leading cause of rabies deaths in people throughout the United States. The CDC (Center for Disease Control) reports that while only 19 cases of rabies were reported in the U.S. between 1997 and 2006, 17 were associated with bats, and three of those were unaware they had even come into contact with a bat.

While only 19 cases of rabies from bats during a nine-year period show that bat bites and rabies in bats are rare, it does occur. Knowing the facts about bats and rabies is important.

What Is Rabies?

Rabies is a serious virus spread through the saliva of infected animals, usually transmitted through a bite. Bat bites are not painful and may not even leave a mark. Should someone suspect having come into contact with a bat, such as if you wake up in the morning to find a bat in your room, contact medical authorities immediately to have yourself and the bat tested. It’s imperative to act right away because once a person shows signs of illness, rabies is almost always fatal.

About Bats and Rabies

Rabid bats have been discovered in 49 out of our 50 states. Only Hawaii is a rabies-free zone.

The only way to confirm if a bat has rabies is to test it in a lab. A rabies diagnosis cannot be determined by sight, but there are a few signs to look out for:

  • A bat that is active in the daytime
  • A bat that is found in an area not usual to their behavior, such as within your home or on your lawn
  • A bat that is unable to fly and is easily approached

You can’t get rabies by being near a bat. Rabies is almost always contracted by a bite. What does a bat bite look like? It will not look like the fang marks portrayed in vampire movies. Bat teeth are so small and sharp that a bite will most likely look like a pinprick if there is any mark at all.

Why Do Bats Bite?

Like most mammals, bats usually only bite in self-defense. But bats that have rabies can bite without being provoked.

Bats can get into your home in a few ways. One can fly in through an open window. Or, the more likely scenario is that you have bats roosting in your chimney, attic, or walls, and one found its way into the house. Even though you are not provoking the bat while you sleep, it can become disoriented, feel trapped and think it is acting in self-defense.

What To Do if a Bat Is in Your House

Any potential contact with a bat needs to be taken seriously. For instance, if you wake up to find a bat in your room, assume you’ve been bitten. When a bat is within your living space, call a professional wildlife specialist such as Critter Control to capture the bat to have it tested for rabies. If the bat is dead, wear gloves and place it in a bag or container and call your local public health department for instructions on what to do.

Critter Control will also be able to check your property to see if there are other bats roosting on your property. Some common places are attics, chimneys, roof eaves, behind shutters, or in sheds.

Will I Need the Rabies PEP Regimen?

Call your doctor and alert them to the bat exposure. Call your pediatrician should there be children in the house.

The administration of the rabies PEP (Post-Exposure Prophylaxis) regimen is generally deferred until after the results of the rabies test on the bat. Test results take one to two business days, and only 3%–4% of bats test positive.

When a bat is not available for testing, the rabies PEP should be administered.

Preventing Bat Bites

The best way to prevent bat bites is to keep them from roosting in your home:

  • Seal all gaps in your attic by going into your attic and looking for all the places where you can see daylight
  • Cover and screen all vents and your chimney
  • Seal any gaps in windows and repair torn screens

A wildlife expert, like the technicians at Critter Control, can help you each step of the way, from inspection to trapping.

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