With Halloween right around the corner comes a timely reminder about the potential of harm from one of its most celebrated participants: bats. While rabid bats are not as prevalent as movies and scary decorations make them appear to be, 90% of rabies cases in the United States occur in wildlife–mostly bats and wild carnivores. Although only a few people die from rabies each year, an estimated 40,000 people receive the prophylactic shots that prevent it. Here is some valuable information for you about the disease, as well as how to spot a rabid bat. You can learn more about how to avoid bats with rabies by reading this guide.
What is rabies?
Rabies is a virus that affects the central nervous system and is nearly always fatal. Transmitted through the bite of an infected animal, rabies starts like the flu with headache, muscle aches, and a feeling of just being unwell. However, within a few days the disease progresses to anxiety, confusion, hallucinations, difficulty swallowing, excessive salivation, and death. The shots that prevent the development of rabies are ineffective once the disease begins, which may be anywhere from one month to one year after the animal’s bite.
Rabies in bats
Only about six percent of bats in the country have rabies, but because they are one of the primary vector species for the disease they merit serious attention. Whenever you encounter a bat in your house or yard, you should assume it is rabid. You might not necessarily feel a bat’s bite; so if you have shared space with one for any length of time (especially while you were asleep), it is entirely possible it bit you.
Bats are nocturnal, preferring to leave their nests to feed on small insects far from home and then return in the pre-dawn hours. They do not tend to socialize with humans, instead going back to sleep in cloistered settings while people go about their daily activities. Therefore, spotting a rabid bat is fairly straightforward. Look for the following signs:
• the bat is somewhere unusual, such as the middle of your lawn or your living room floor
• the bat is unable to fly
• the bat moves sluggishly or appears ill
Ultimately, rabies can only be diagnosed by laboratory testing; however, if you find a bat that fits the above description, do not handle it.
What if I find a bat I think is rabid?
If you find a bat and think it may be displaying signs of rabies, call your local animal control services such as All Wildlife Animal Eviction. A technician will remove the bat, and it will be tested for the disease. Additionally, if there is any possibility, no matter how remote, that you have been bitten, seek medical attention.
You may go your whole life without encountering a bat outside of scary decorations at Halloween parties. However, because rabies is much more frightening than cardboard cutouts, beware of bats year round. If you are still worried about bats with rabies, then read more articles on how to avoid them here.