Bats could pose rabies risks for residents

September 18th, 2017

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (9/18/2017). –- If a bat is found in your home, do not kill it or set it free if there is a chance it may have come in contact with a person or pet.  County health officials urge you instead to safely capture the bat and contact the local animal control office to have it tested for rabies.

Rabies is a viral disease of the central nervous system that is almost always fatal once symptoms begin. The 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.

Bats transmit the most human cases of rabies in Indiana. So far in 2017, 9 bats have tested positive for rabies statewide. There were 17 bats that tested positive in 2016.

While it is still a low percentage of bats that do carry rabies, a bat that is active during the day, is unable to fly, or is found in a place where bats are not usually seen — such as a room in your home — is more likely to be rabid.

Bats present an additional concern because they have small, sharp teeth which may not leave a visible mark. Persons exposed to bats are often given the rabies vaccine as a precaution, especially if the bat is found in a room with a young child, a sleeping person, an intoxicated or mentally-impaired person.

In many cases, however, the expensive treatment is unnecessary if the bat can be safely captured and found to be rabies-free.

To safely capture a bat indoors:

  • close the windows, room and closet doors
  • turn on lights
  • wait for the bat to land

Wearing long sleeves and heavy gloves, cover the bat with a pail, coffee can or similar container. Call your local animal control office. If you spot a grounded bat outdoors, you can prevent further contact with people and pets by covering it with a pail or similar container and then calling the animal control office.

Health officials also urge people not to handle bats or other wild animals, to “bat-proof’ their homes by repairing or plugging any holes larger than a half-inch, and to wash any bite or scratch wounds with soap and water.

More information can be found at www.allencountyhealth.com or by calling (260) 427-1244.

FAST FACTS:
To reduce the risk of rabies exposure:

  • vaccinate your pets
  • avoid contact with wildlife and stray animals
  • bat-proof your residence by plugging or caulking any holes larger than a quarter-inch by a half-inch that bats can use to gain entry, by using chimney caps and window screens, and by ensuring that all doors to the outside close tight

If an exposure does occur, immediately wash the wound with soap and water and then seek medical attention. Call Fort Wayne Animal Care & Control at (260) 427-1244 or ask your healthcare provider or the emergency room staff to fax a completed bite report form to (260) 427-5514.

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