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Bats and Rabies

May 29, 2024

Health Unit Raises Awareness about Bats and Rabies

Bats are efficient pest controllers consuming three times their body weight in insects per night. With the mosquitos appearing from the weather conditions this spring, bats are out hunting for these as food. While this is good news for reducing mosquitos, we need to be aware that bats can carry the rabies virus. The most common signs of rabies in bats are the inability to fly and resting in unusual places such as the ground or floor. It is important to remember many of the bats that get into our homes are healthy bats and are looking for a way out.

Diseases Bats May Carry

Bats do have the potential to carry diseases such as rabies and histoplasmosis, which can affect humans and animals. They may also transmit distemper and mange to household pets.

  • Rabies is a disease caused by a virus that attacks the central nervous system, and is found in the saliva of infected animals. Rabies is fatal if left untreated.
  • Histoplasmosis is a disease caused by a fungus that grows in soil contaminated with bat or bird droppings. Exposure to the fungus occurs when the soil is disturbed. The disease primarily affects the lungs and can be fatal if left untreated. If you are cleaning areas where bat droppings have accumulated be sure to wear a protective mask and gloves and keep dust to a minimum.

Bat Encounters

Bat exposures: If a bat is carrying the rabies virus, there is a risk of it being transmitted to an individual when both the following conditions apply:

  • There has been direct contact with a bat – direct contact with a bat is defined as the bat touching or landing on a person; 

AND

  • A bite, scratch, or saliva exposure into a wound or mucous membrane. If you are bitten by a bat or if saliva from a bat gets into your eyes, nose, mouth or a wound, wash the affected area thoroughly and get medical attention immediately. If the bat is available, the Health Unit can arrange for it to be tested for rabies.

In a child, any direct contact with a bat (i.e., the bat landing on or touching the child, including contact through clothes) could be considered a reason for vaccine administration, as a child may not be able to reliably communicate the encounter with the bat to determine the type of the contact (i.e., a bite, scratch or mucous membrane exposure).

If you have experienced a bat encounter and/or may have been bitten, contact 1-800-660-5853 or on weekends call 613-345-5685 and seek medical attention from a health care provider.

Bat Proofing Your Home

Bat proofing your house is necessary when the bats are entering the living space of your home. It is advisable to contact a pest management company or a wildlife conservation agency for assistance with bat-proofing your home. Find our more here: Keeping Bats Out of Your House – Centers of Disease Control and Prevention.

If you find a bat in your home and there was no human or animal contact, the bat can be released to the outdoors. Wear thick gloves when handling the bat to avoid being bitten. For more information about bat removal please visit Bats – Health Canada – info on how to get a bat out of your house.

Rabies can also affect pets; to protect your pet from rabies it is important to vaccinate them. Rabies vaccination is mandatory in Ontario for domestic cats and dogs. For more information, visit our website: Bats & Rabies – Leeds, Grenville and Lanark District Health Unit.

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Contact

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