Bats can be found in areas throughout the state. You may think you see birds around dusk but it’s more likely that they are bats searching for bugs to eat, especially if your home is near a water source. Keeping bats out of your home is a good first step to protect yourself against rabies.
“Most bats are healthy and contribute to our environment in many ways, particularly by controlling insects. However, on average, 1% of bats are infected with rabies. Because pets can be exposed to rabid bats as well as rabid land animals, it’s critical that dogs, cats and ferrets more than three months old be vaccinated against rabies, even those that do not go outside,” said Eric Wohlers, Environmental Health Director at the Cattaraugus County Health Department (CCHD).
Avoid contact with any bat, especially one that is outdoors during daylight, on the ground, or paralyzed. Any physical contact with a bat should be evaluated for potential rabies exposure. There are also situations where it is not clear whether contact occurred. In some situations a bat bite could be so minor that it is not recognized, such as when a bat is found in a room with a sleeping person, or next to an unattended young child, or pet.
If there is any chance that human or pet contact with a bat occurred, or if you are not sure if contact occurred, capture the bat without touching it. Do not let it go. If indoors, close windows, room and closet doors, turn on lights and wait for the bat to land. Wearing heavy gloves, cover the bat with a pail, coffee can or similar container, slide a piece of cardboard underneath, then place a lid on the container and contact the Cattaraugus County Health Department at 716-373-8050 so that it can be tested for rabies.
CCHD reminds the public that as many as 45-70 county residents yearly must get rabies post-exposure treatment at an average cost of $2,400 per person. In the majority of these cases, there was a bat in the house, which was not captured so testing could not be performed to determine if the bat was infected with the rabies virus. Testing the bat is an easy way to avoid expensive treatments, which might not be necessary.
CCHD is providing this information to all residents throughout the county in order that we might reduce such unnecessary treatments and taxpayer expense. If you have further questions or concerns, please call the Health Department at 716-373-8050 or go to our Web Site at ww2.cattco.org/health .