The Public Health Concern of Bats

August 31, 2015

Bats

 

Bats are an important part of the world’s ecosystem. They feed on insects and moths that can cause significant damage to property and crops. Bats eat these insects in large numbers. Contrary to popular belief, bats are not effective mosquito control. Mosquitos tend to be on brush and bushes near water and people. Bats are not accustoming to that environment. Therefore, bats are important. It is common knowledge that bats are often carriers of rabies. Though (humans) getting rabies is a minor occurrence in the United States; of the cases found; bats were the animal most often found to be rabid. Not all bats have rabies. A bat can carry rabies and not have the virus. So, you should take precautions with all bats until proven otherwise.

 

Rabies

 

Rabies is a deadly viral disease most often spread through the saliva (and droppings) of an infected animal. It is a painful and rapid disease. It causes acute inflammation of the brain. It is most often transmitted through a bite. The teeth of a bat are so small, that a person may not realize they have been bitten. This is especially true, if the person is a child or senior citizen or someone with mental disabilities. Prevention is possible with treatment, if began early enough. There is no cure for rabies and rabies is fatal 99% of the time.

 

Why we are seeing more bats

 

Bats live in caves, attics, barns and places that create a dark, damp environment. They are nocturnal, sleeping during the day and feeding at night. Consequently, contact with bats is rare. However, people are beginning to see bats more often. One reason for this is the change in human lifestyle. In past generations, the majority of the population worked and went to school during the day and slept at night. But we now live in a 24 hour society. Cities are in full swing at any time of the day or night. Businesses stay open around the clock. People have a choice whether they want to be a day person or a night owl. Cities and towns have grown rapidly in the past 100 years. There are more buildings being built and restored than ever before in United States history. This expansion disturbs the nesting areas of the bats. Any contact with a bat is potentially dangerous. There have been reported cases of people trying to remove a bat from their home and thought they had just touched the bat while scaring him away. In fact they had been bitten.

 

If you have come in contact with a bat, you should be concerned. An infected bat moves more slowly, making human contact easier. This means, if you are in contact with a bat – chances are it is moving slowly (enough for you to be in contact) because it is infected.

 

Defense

 

The best defense against getting rabies from an infected bat is, avoid bats! Do not try to catch a bat. If you are exploring a cave, take a flashlight and be aware of what you are doing and where you are. Putting screens on your houses attic openings and upper windows will prevent a bat from taking up residence in your house. To a bat, that dark area that your open window or open door shows; looks like a cave. Pay attention to your lighting. Outside lights need to be positioned where they do not make the inside appear to be a dark cave.

 

What to do when you see a bat

 

If you have found a bat in a room with someone who was sleeping or disabled, assume the bat bit them. It probably didn’t, but you MUST check to find out. Many people have slept through a bat bite. You can prevent rabies if you treat it before symptoms arise. If you want until you see the signs, it may be too late. If you have actually touched or awoke to find a bat on you, wash thoroughly with soap and water and go to the emergency room. Do not destroy or remove the bat if you can help it. Call animal control and they can assist you in catching it for testing.

 

Using screens on attic openings and windows will prevent a bat from assuming your house is a cave. When you come in contact with any bat, assume the worse. Wash thoroughly with soap and water and seek help. Children must be taught not to touch a bat! This is a good lesson to teach children with any animal. Other animals carry rabies. If you find a bat makes sure you contact your health department, the CDC or animal control for information about how to dispose of the animal. Most likely the bat will be picked up and tested for rabies. Clean the area where the bat was found, thoroughly. Remember, droppings and saliva is most likely infected.

 

Common sense along with educating ourselves to the potential damage bats can cause and the illnesses they bring is the key. You may never run across a bat in your lifetime. But if you do, you need to know what to do and you need to act quickly. Doing so can mean life or death to you or someone you love.

 

Share this information with your children and others.

 

For all of your bat removal questions, please call Bats Away today.  Bats Away is your professional bat removal NJ company. 

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