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Health Department Issues Guidance On What To Do If You Find A Bat In Your Home

During the warm weather months, especially during the summer when bats are active during the evening, there is the potential that they could enter your home. Because there is a risk of rabies from bats, if you find a bat in your home and you cannot be absolutely certain there has been no contact with a person or pet, you must attempt to capture the bat and bring it into the Broome County Health Department for testing. Testing of the bat is important because it can confirm whether rabies treatment is needed to prevent rabies.

Within the past week there have been three separate cases where the bat was let go after it was captured because the person did a self-assessment and didn't see any evidence of a bat bite or scratch. A self-examination is unreliable because bat's teeth are very small and razor sharp. A bite from a bat can be as small as a pin prick and barely visible to the naked eye.

"In all three cases the people involved had to undergo rabies treatment. If the bats were captured and sent for testing, post-exposure treatment for rabies may not have been necessary," said Robert Denz, Director of Environmental Health Services at the Broome County Health Department. The only time it is advisable to let a bat go is if you saw the bat fly in your home and back out again and there was no contact with a person or pet.

Rabies is a virus that affects the central nervous system and is preventable through a series of vaccinations after an exposure. Once symptoms appear, however, rabies is fatal.

To capture a bat follow these steps:

  • Turn on room lights and close the windows.
  • Close the room and closet doors.
  • Wait for the bat to land.
  • Wearing gloves, place a coffee can, pail or similar container over the bat.
  • Slide a piece of cardboard under the container to trap the bat.
  • Firmly hold the cardboard in place against the top of the container, turn it right side up and tape the cardboard tightly to the container.

Following these steps will insure that bat's brain remains intact, which is necessary for testing. To make arrangements to have the bat tested for rabies, call the Environmental Health Division of the Broome County Health Department during normal business hours at 607.778.2887. 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.

To minimize the risk of an unwanted bat in your home, you should do a home inspection. Bats can get into homes through cracks as small as a pencil. Find potential points of entry and seal them. To further reduce the risk, make sure all windows and doors have screens on them and that the screens are intact. Attics are also a common entry point. Make sure access to those areas from the living area is tightly sealed.

For more information about bats and rabies visit the New York State Department of Health website at www.health.state.ny.us/diseases/communicable/zoonoses/rabies/ or the Centers for Disease and Control website at www.cdc.gov/RABIES/.

08/01/2008 - 1:46pm