Bats sometimes end up in our homes and most of the time they are as unhappy about being there as we are at finding them there. In the late summer and fall we see an increase in bats finding their way into our houses and apartments. This happens because the bats sense that the weather will be changing soon. They are looking for a nice warm place to hibernate, or young bats sometimes get confused and end up where they don’t belong.
Bats in general get a bad rap, we don’t want them near us and many folks are very fearful of them. However bats play a very important role in our environment. They eat insects, including some that can cause lots of damage to farms and crops. Plus they love to eat mosquitoes.
There are myths when it comes to bats. They are not blind; they are not rodents or birds. They are mammals. They will not suck your blood and most bats do not have rabies. Because they are part of the mammal family they can develop rabies but most of them do not have the disease.
But because bats can have rabies, we want to remember that there is that possibility that they can bite us and give it to us. Our first instinct upon finding a bat in our home is to get it out, to shoe it to the closest door. This is a mistake! Because we do not know which bats have rabies and which do not, you need to assume that the one in your home could have the deadly virus, rabies. This year in Nebraska there have been 14 cases of animals/bats testing positive for rabies, 11 of these were bats. This summer one bat tested positive for rabies in the Four Corners Health Department district.
Bat bites are very superficial and easily overlooked. People who are sleeping can be bitten and not even know it has happened. If you wake up to find a bat in the room, or if a bat is found in the room with a person who cannot tell you if the bat touched them, such as small children, impaired with drugs or alcohol, or mentally impaired individuals, assume that the bat could have bitten them. If a bat comes in contact with your bare skin or you step on a bat with bare feet, there is a chance that you may have been bitten, and you may have been exposed to the deadly rabies virus.
Bats found in the house that could have possibly bitten us should not be released outdoors. They should be caught and sent in for rabies testing. It is important not to damage the bat or testing will not be possible. Safe methods of capturing a bat may be found on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website at www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dvrd/rabies/bats_&_rabies/bats&.htm.
In some cases, if the bat is released or too damaged for testing, treatment will also be recommended. If you think you could have been in contact with bat, tell your doctor and the Four Corners Health Department.
If a bat or other animal tests positive for rabies, and it has bitten or exposed a person, then that person needs to receive a series of shots over a one month period as treatment.
If you have a bat that you think may need to be tested call the Four Corners Health Department at (402) 362-2621 or toll free (877) 337-3573.