5 things to know about bats and rabies

Public Health Insider has reported on multiple incidents of human/bat interactions this summer – a bat in a park bathroom, a bat at an equestrian center and a bat near Husky Stadium. Statewide, bat-human encounters broke a record this spring.  So what are the essential 5 things to know about bats? Read on:

1. Anyone who touches or has contact with a bat is at risk of getting rabies. In Washington state, the bat is the only known source of rabies. Call Public Health at 206-296-4774 or seek medical evaluation immediately if you could have been touched by a bat.

2. If you wake up in a room or a tent and there is a bat in it, DO NOT LET THE BAT GO. Bats have very small teeth, so it’s possible to have been bitten and not know it. Treatment to prevent rabies may be needed if a bat is found in a room with anyone who is:

  • Sleeping
  • An unattended child
  • Mentally or physically challenged, or
  • Intoxicated
    bat
    Courtesy WDFW

Capture the bat in a box and call Public Health to get the bat tested for rabies. Watch our video for a demonstration of how to safely catch a bat. Testing the bat for rabies can confirm if follow up treatment is needed such as rabies “post-exposure prophylaxis” (PEP) to prevent you from getting rabies.

3. In the past, rabies PEP consisted of painful shots to the abdomen. That’s no longer true! The current treatment is extremely effective in preventing rabies if started before symptoms appear. It typically consists of a dose of human rabies immune globulin and several rabies vaccines in the muscle over a period of weeks. No one wants to get rabies PEP, but the potential alternative is much, much worse: death from rabies.

4. Rabies is almost always fatal once symptoms begin. Rabies kills 55,000 people around the world and 1-3 people in the U.S. each year. Rabies is a virus that infects the brain and spinal cord. Rabies is not typically transmissible from person to person.

5. Most bats don’t have rabies. Bats are very important to our environment! The vast majority of bats don’t have rabies and help disperse fruit seeds, pollinate plants, and eat tons of insects.

Every year, Public Health receives dozens of reports of people exposed to bats. There’s a lot you can do to minimize coming in contact with a bat. Read and share this information with everyone you can. Or print this fact sheet and share it with your friends.

(Originally posted on 7/20/18)

3 thoughts on “5 things to know about bats and rabies

  1. I am not able to print this article off, can you send me a printable copy for class? Thanks, Jim Evermann at CVM WSU

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