Since 1995, more than 90 percent of people who died with rabies in the United States contracted the disease from bats. Rabid bats are likely to be active by day, may be found in a place they would not normally be found and may be unable to fly. However, most human deaths related to bat rabies are not related to abnormal behavior of bats. Any bat found inside the living spaces of a home are of concern.
If an individual awakens to find a bat in their room, sees a bat in the room of an unattended child, or sees a bat near a mentally impaired or intoxicated person, they are advised to seek medical advice, regardless of whether a bite is suspected or not. Bats have small teeth, and bites can go unnoticed, especially if bat contact occurs when a person is sleeping. Rabies vaccine must be provided after an exposure in order to prevent rabies infection from developing. Rabies is fatal once symptoms develop, but the vaccine is almost always effective if given before rabies symptoms become apparent.
The Worcester County Health Department provides the following tips to address potential bat exposures:
- If a bat is found in the living area(s) of your home and exposure to either humans or pets cannot absolutely be ruled out, the bat should be tested for rabies. Immediately contact the Worcester County Health Department at 410-641-9559 or, if after hours, your local police department or the Sheriff's Office, so that arrangements can be made for collection of the bat and for rabies testing. If the bat cannot be safely contained, where possible, close off the room the bat is in and place a towel at the bottom of the door.
- Prevent bats from entering living quarters or occupied spaces in homes. Never handle a bat with bare hands. Use thick gloves or call a bat removal expert to help you remove bats from your house.
- Make sure all household pets have current rabies vaccinations and avoid contact with stray or wild animals.
For assistance with bat colonies not inside the living area of the home (attics, eves) contact the Maryland Department of Natural Resources Wildlife and Heritage Service at www.dnr.md.us/wildlife. Search for "bats in houses” or call 1-877-463-6497.
For more tips and information about bats and rabies, please visit our website at http://worcesterhealth.org.