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Bats and Rabies

BINGHAMTON, NY - The Broome County Health Department is reminding residents that summertime is the season when human exposure to bats increases. Although bats may be helpful to humans by consuming insect pests, some bats are infected with rabies.

Rabies is a disease that affects the central nervous system. The rabies virus is carried in the saliva of infected animals and is usually transmitted to people and other animals when they are bitten or scratched by the rabid animal. If left untreated, rabies is fatal to humans and animals.

The best way to avoid possible exposure to rabies is to avoid any contact with bats. Keeping bats out of your home is a good first step to protect yourself against rabies. To keep bats from entering your home, do not leave unscreened windows or doors open to the outside, eliminate attic access to living spaces, and make sure window screens are in good repair.

Protect your pets by making sure they are vaccinated for rabies. Even if your pet does not go outdoors, which is often the case with cats and domesticated ferrets, they can be at risk of coming into contact with a bat in your home. Bats have been known to enter homes through openings as small as a pencil.

If you see a bat in your home and you are certain that there was no contact with a person or pet (for example, you saw the bat fly in the house and never lost sight of it), close the room and closet doors, open the windows and watch the bat until it leaves.

However, if a bat is present in your home and you cannot rule out the possibility of exposure, you should make every effort to capture the bat so that it can be tested for rabies. Confine the bat to one room by closing all windows and doors, turn on the lights, and wait for the bat to land. Wearing gloves approach the bat slowly, cover the bat with a coffee can or similar container and slide a piece of cardboard or lid under the can trapping the bat. Following this procedure will insure that bat's brain remains intact, which is necessary for testing. Tape the cardboard or lid to the container and call the Environmental Health Division of the Broome County Health Department during normal business hours at 607.778.2887 to make arrangements for the bat to be tested for rabies. For emergency guidance on weekends and after normal work hours call Broome County Dispatch at 607.778.1911. A dispatcher will then contact Broome County Health Department staff for you.

Rabies vaccination is mandatory by Public Health Law for dogs, cats and domesticated ferrets once they are four months old. The Front Street Dog Shelter Alliance in conjunction with the Broome County Health Department encourage residents who have a dog, cat or domesticated ferret that needs a rabies vaccine to attend one of the following upcoming clinics.