Health department urges caution around bats, common carriers of rabies.

July 5, 2016

District Health Department No. 10 is urging the public to be aware of the transmission of rabies through bats. Bats are among the most common animals in Michigan to transmit rabies, a rare disease that is fatal if untreated, so while fear isn’t warranted, caution is.

The following advice comes from the health department:

If you are bitten by a bat, seek medical attention right away. If a bat has been found in the room of a sleeping person, an unattended child, or near a mentally impaired or intoxicated person, contact your local health department office to speak with a public health nurse to determine if an exposure to rabies may have occurred. A bat that had contact with a person may need to be tested for rabies. Do not let it out of the house, if possible. In order to be tested, a bat’s head must be kept intact, so hitting it with any type of object, like a tennis racket, is not advised.

Capturing a bat is not as difficult as you may think. The first step is to make sure not to touch it with your bare skin (leather work gloves are ideal). Have a small box or coffee can, a piece of cardboard and tape ready. When the bat lands, approach it slowly. Place the box or coffee can over the bat and slide the cardboard under the container to trap the bat inside. Tape the cardboard securely to the container.

Once you have captured the bat, contact the local health departmentoffice to get instructions and to find out if the bat needs to be tested. Do not bring a bat to the health department without calling first.

Be sure to bat-proof your home by replacing any loose soffits, flashings, eaves and siding. Also, cover roof vents with screens, make sure all doors shut tightly with no gaps, and that window screens are not damaged or torn.

Bats, skunks, raccoons, foxes, and unvaccinated cats and dogs are all likely rabies carriers. To help protect yourself and loved ones from rabies, avoid approaching or touching any wild or stray animal. State law requires all dogs to be vaccinated against rabies by a licensed veterinarian but this does not mean that all are.  Remember, if you are bitten by a bat, dog, wild or stray animal, contact your health care provider immediately.

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