What to do if a Bat is in Your Home

Bats sometimes end up in our homes, most of the time they are as unhappy about being there as we are at finding them there. Warmer weather outside often means that more bats are out and active. This is a good thing as some types of bats can eat between 500 and 1,000 mosquitos in a single hour. This is a great natural way to keep the numbers of mosquitos down without using dangerous pesticides. But sometimes they end up in places they shouldn’t, like inside our homes.

There are a lot of myths when it comes to bats. They are not blind; they are not rodents or birds. They are mammals. They will not suck your blood and most bats do not have rabies.  Because they are part of the mammal family, they can develop rabies but most of them do not have the disease. However, there is always a risk that a bat can bite us and give us rabies. Rabies is almost always deadly and needs to be treated very seriously and quickly.

Our first instinct upon finding a bat in our home is to get it out, to shoo it to the closest door. This is a mistake!  It is impossible to know which bats have rabies and which do not, so you need to assume that the one in your home could have the deadly virus. Every year in Nebraska there are bats and other mammals that test positive for rabies.

Bat bites are very small and often difficult to see. In fact, someone can be bitten while sleeping and not even know it has happened. If a bat is found in the room with someone who cannot say for sure if the bat touched them, such as small children, people who are intoxicated or drug impaired, or mentally impaired people, we need to assume that the bat may have bitten them. If a bat meets bare skin, or if a bat is stepped on with bare feet, then it should be assumed that this person has possibly been exposed to rabies.

If you are completely sure that the bat has not had contact with anyone in your home, and can carefully get it outside, no testing is required. However, bats found in the house that could have bitten us should not be released outdoors. They should be caught and sent for rabies testing. You should not damage the bat while catching it or testing may not be possible. Please, don’t freeze the bat after capturing it because it can affect the testing process. Rather, refrigerate it alive in a sealed container until you can take it to a veterinarian. There it will be humanely euthanized and sent for testing. Safe methods of capturing a bat may be found on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website at www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dvrd/rabies/bats_&_rabies/bats&.htm.

People exposed to bats that are positive for rabies need to receive a series of injections over a one month period. In some cases, if the bat is released or too damaged for testing, treatment will also be recommended. People experiencing bat bites are advised to contact their physician and the Four Corners Health Department.  “We have been involved in local cases where bats could not be tested but had human contact, resulting in medical treatment for a number of people.” according to Laura McDougall, Executive Director of the Four Corners Health Department.  “We want people to be aware of what they should do if they find a bat in their home.”

For more information, please call Four Corners Health Department toll-free at 1-877-337-3573 or 402-362-2621. You can also email info@fourcorners.ne.gov.