Rabies is almost always a fatal disease if not treated right away by a post-exposure vaccination before serious symptoms occur. Washtenaw County is taking every precaution now that two rabid bats have been found within seven miles of each other in 2018.
“We typically see a couple rabid bats in the county each year,” said Judy Gwozdek, communicable disease coordinator at the Washtenaw County Health Department. “Bat encounters tend to increase in the summer and fall months.”
If there is a bat in your house, the Washtenaw County Health Department recommends leaving the bat alone and calling an animal control agency. If you want to capture the bat, they also provide the following six steps to doing so safely.
- Put on leather work gloves.
- When the bat lands, approach it slowly and place a small box or coffee can over it.
- Slide a piece of cardboard under the container to trap the bat inside.
- Tape the cardboard to the container securely, and punch small holes in the cardboard, allowing the bat to breathe.
- If the bat is dead, put it carefully in a Ziploc bag and put it on ice until it can be sent in for testing.
- Contact the Washtenaw County Health Department at 734-544-6700 for advice regarding sending the bat for testing.
“Our public health nurses are available to talk through each situation and determine if there was any risk of exposure to rabies,” Gwozdek said. “This is critical because rabies is almost always fatal if not prevented with post-exposure vaccination.”
The health department also recommends the following rabies safety precautions:
- Make sure all open doors and windows have screens to prevent bats from entering your home. Check for other small openings, especially in older homes. Bats can enter through holes the size of a dime.
- If you are bitten or scratched by a stray or wild animal, clean the bite or scratch wound immediately with soap and water and seek immediate medical attention.
- Keep all pets, including cats, dogs, and ferrets, up-to-date on rabies vaccines.
Report any bat exposures or animal bites to the Washtenaw County Health Department at 734-544-6700 before letting the animal go.
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