Rabid bats may seek refuge in your home as temperatures drop

The Erie County Health Department is warning residents of potentially rabid bats seeking shelter in their homes as temperatures drop. The DOH says it’s imperative to “keep the bat” if you find one in your home. Falling temperatures cause bats to seek out warmer places like attics for shelter. Having a bat inside your home can increase your exposure to rabies.

Healthy bats will avoid contact with humans and other animals. Bats infected with rabies may lose their ability to fly and may end up on the ground or in water, where people or pets may encounter them. Bats with rabies are often disoriented, which increases the likelihood that they will accidentally find themselves in a dwelling.

The rabies virus, which affects the nervous system, can be transmitted through bites, scratches or saliva from an infected animal. If you or a family member have been exposed to a bat, special precautions should be taken. The rabies virus is 100% fatal in humans if treatment is not administered in a timely manner.

Even though it is hibernation season for bats, they may wake up on warm winter days and seek a safe place like your address or garage to end their hibernation.

Hibernation of bats is unique because they can enter their inactive state (torpor) for widely varying lengths of time. The common little brown bat can hibernate for more than 6 months… or simply go into torpor for a few hours.

Bats can also wake up from hibernation more frequently than some animals. Their body temperature quickly returns to normal and they can fly and hunt for food. Bats frequently “wake up” on warm winter days.

Erie County Health Commissioner Dr. Gale Burstein said:

“Our environmental health and epidemiology staff are highly experienced in managing potential rabies exposures. Anyone who has had direct contact with a wild animal, any kind of animal bite, or been in a room with a bat while sleeping – call our service at (716) 961-6800. We have experience with thousands of potential rabies exposures and can guide you through the steps to protect your health from this deadly disease.

If you find a bat in your home or residence, here is what you should do:

– Keep the bat contained, don’t let it out
– Call the Erie County Health Department at (716) 961-6800 or (716) 961-7898, if it’s after hours.

If no professional help is available, capture the bat safely as described below. You will need leather or very thick work gloves (put them on), a small box or coffee can, a piece of cardboard and masking tape.

-When the bat lands, slowly walk towards it.
-While wearing the gloves, place the box or coffee can on the bat.
-Then, slide the cardboard under the container to trap the bat inside.
– Glue the cardboard to the container and punch small holes in the cardboard to allow the bat to breathe.

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