The Stanly News and Press (Albemarle, NC)

July 10, 2013

Summer Increases Risk of Exposure to Bats and Related Health Risks


CNHI

Wednesday, July 10, 2013 — Raleigh, N.C. — During the height of summer and mosquito season, bats flying through the night sky are typically a welcome sight. But when bats venture indoors, it may be a different story.  According to wildlife experts, May 1 through July 31 is the time of year for bats to care for their newborn pups in maternity colonies and it is very common for the animals to roost in attics and crawl spaces.  While the insect-eating mammals are very important to maintaining ecosystems worldwide, they also can transmit rabies and other disease to humans.



DHHS public health experts suggest taking precautions to protect yourself and your family:

If you awaken to find a bat in your room, tent or cabin, do not release it.  Instead, safely confine the bat to the room or tent, be sure all people and pets vacate and contact your local animal control to have it captured and tested for rabies.

Seek medical advice immediately.  Bat bites can be difficult to detect and may not cause a person to wake from a sound sleep.  If you have had any contact at all with a bat, even if you do not think you have been bitten, you must still talk with a physician.  You may have been exposed to rabies.

If you know you have been bitten, thoroughly wash the wound with soap and water before seeing a doctor.

Never handle a bat with your bare hands.  If you need to capture it before animal control arrives, follow safety guidelines as outlined by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). See a video demonstration.

If bat or bird droppings have accumulated in an attic for example, care should be taken to avoid stirring up and breathing the dust.  Fungal spores in the droppings may cause disease when inhaled by some people. Contact your local health department or an industrial hygienist for guidance on cleaning up bat droppings, or guano.

Unless it is determined to be a health hazard, the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission (NCWRC) recommends that exclusion of bats from the entire structure not be performed from May 1 to August 1 because bat maternity colonies may be present. Removal, or exclusion, may also be illegal if it results in the death of bats, some of which may be federally protected under the Endangered Species Act or state Threatened or Special Concern species.

 

To prevent bats from entering your home, examine your home carefully and seal openings in doors, windows and screens, attics and chimneys that may allow bats access to your living spaces.  You may also wish to consult with a trained and licensed Wildlife Damage Control Agent for assistance.  A county-by-county listing is available online.

 

For more information on rabies in North Carolina and links to current rabies data, visit http://epi.publichealth.nc.gov/cd/diseases/rabies.html.