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Rabies: Know the Facts

Bats & RabiesBat

Why should I learn about bats and rabies?

Most of the recent human rabies cases have been caused by rabies virus from bats. Awareness of the facts about bats and rabies can help people protect themselves, their families and their pets. This information may also help clear up misunderstandings about bats.

When people think about bats, they often imagine things that are not true. Bats are not blind. They are neither rodents nor birds. They will not suck your blood and most do not have rabies. The best protection we can offer these unique mammals is to learn more about their habits and recognize the value of living safely with them.

How can I tell if a bat has rabies?

Rabies can only be confirmed in a laboratory. However, any bat that is active by day, is found in a place where bats are usually not seen ( for example, in a room in your home or on the lawn), or is unable to fly, is far more likely than others to be rabid. Such bats are often the most easily approached. Therefore, it is best to never handle any bat.

What should I do if I come in contact with a bat?

If you are bitten by a bat - or if infectious material (such as saliva) from a bat gets into your eyes, nose, mouth, or a wound – wash the affected area thoroughly with soap and water and get medical advice immediately. Whenever possible, the bat should be captured and sent to a laboratory for rabies testing. (see "How can I safely capture a bat in my home?")

People usually know when they have been bitten by a bat. However, because bats have small teeth which may leave marks that are not easily seen, there are situations in which you should seek medical advice even in the absence of an obvious bite wound. For example, if you awaken and find a bat in your room, see a bat in the room with an unattended child, or see a bat near a mentally impaired or intoxicated person. You may also contact the Health Department's Environmental Help Line at 905-723-3818 or 1-888-777-9613 for more information.

People cannot get rabies from just seeing a bat in an attic, in a cave or at a distance. In addition, people cannot get rabies from having contact with bat guano (feces), blood, urine or from touching a bat‘s fur (even though bats should never be handled).

What should I do if my pet is exposed to a bat?

If you think your pet or domestic animal has been bitten by a bat, contact a veterinarian or your health department for assistance immediately and have the bat tested for rabies. Remember to keep vaccinations current for cats, dogs and other animals.

Are bats beneficial?

Yes. Worldwide, bats are a major predator of night-flying insects, including pests that costs farmers billions of dollars annually. Throughout the tropics, seed dispersal and pollination activities by bats are vital to rain forest survival. In addition, studies of bats have contributed to medical advances including development of navigational aids for the blind. Unfortunately, many local populations of bats have been destroyed and many species are now endangered.

How can I safely capture a bat in my home?

First determine if there has been any type of human or pet exposure (See "What should I do if I come in contact with a bat?"). If a bat is present in your home, leave the bat alone and contact a pest control company or public health agency for assistance. If professional help is unavailable, the precautions to capture the bat are described below.

What you will need:

  • Leather work gloves (put them on)
  • Small box or coffee can
  • Piece of cardboard
  • Tape

When the bat lands, approach it slowly while wearing the gloves and place the box or coffee can over it. Contact the Health Department's Environmental Help Line at 905-723-3818 or 1-888-777-9613 to make arrangements for rabies testing.

If you see a bat in your home and you are sure no human exposure or pet exposure has occurred, confine the bat to a room by closing all doors and windows leading out of the room except those to the outside. The bat will probably leave soon. If not, it can be caught as described and released outdoors away from people and pets.

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