News Releases > Bat encounters carry risk of rabies exposure
FORT WAYNE, Ind. (Aug. 19, 2009). – With a recent rise in the number of bats testing positive for rabies, the Fort Wayne-Allen County Department of Health and Fort Wayne Animal Care and Control want to remind residents to avoid any contact with wildlife.
Although bats may be helpful to humans by consuming insects such as mosquitoes, they also pose the greatest risk of rabies transmission to Hoosiers and this is typically a peak time of year for encounters with the winged creatures. Already this year, 22 bats have tested positive for rabies in Indiana, including 5 in Allen County. In 2008, there was 11 in Indiana and one in Allen County.
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.
“Rabies is endemic in bats and finding more positives at this time of year does not mean our city has an unusual problem,” says Belinda Lewis, Director of Fort Wayne Animal Care and Control. “When these encounters do occur, however, the bat should be safely captured and preserved for testing and the person should seek immediate medical attention if bitten.”
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.
Because a person can be bitten without knowing it, persons exposed to bats may be given the rabies vaccine as a precaution. In many cases, however, treatment is unnecessary if the bat can be safely captured and found to be rabies-free. Recent cases of rabies in humans in the U.S. have been due to bat bites that were not recognized or reported.
“Bats have very small teeth and their bite marks can disappear very quickly,” says Dr. Deborah McMahan, Allen County Health Commissioner. “If you awake and find a bat in your room, contact your family doctor as you might not have felt the bite while you were sleeping. Through good education and prevention, we can prevent most cases of human rabies.”
To reduce the risk of rabies exposure:
· Avoid contact with bats and other wild animals
· Bat-proof your home 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 necessary, hire a professional to do the work.
· Protect your pets from rabies by making sure their vaccinations are up-to-date. Cats living indoors should be vaccinated as they are the most likely to come into contact with a bat.
If you are bitten by a bat:
· Immediately wash the wound with soap and water and then seek medical attention
· Report the incident to your local animal control agency
· If a bat is present in your home and you cannot rule out the possibility of exposure, make every effort to capture the bat safely with heavy gloves and a container such as a coffee can. Wearing long sleeves is also recommended. City residents can contact Fort Wayne Animal Care and Control to have the bat safely removed.
· Whenever a bat is found in a room with a sleeping person or a young child or disabled person, it is also important to have the bat tested. Immediately notify your local animal control agency of any incidents.