Bats Can Spread Rabies Without An Obvious Bite
**Disclaimer: We are not trying to scare you. Please take bats in your home seriously.**
Rabies is a serious disease that is caused by a bite from an animal. Rabies is mainly a disease of animals, however, humans can get rabies when bitten by an infected animal. At first sight, there might not be any symptoms, but as weeks or even months go by after a bite, rabies can cause pain, fatigue, headaches, fevers, and irritability. These are followed by seizures, hallucinations, and paralysis. Human rabies is almost always fatal.
So how can bats spread rabies without an obvious bite? Don’t bats need to bite you in order to transmit this virus? The answer is no, bats do not need to bite you to spread the virus.
Here are different ways a bat with rabies can transmit the virus to you:
- If you are bitten or scratched by the bat
- If infectious material (saliva, spinal fluid, or brain matter if it is killed) from a bat gets into your eyes, nose, mouth, or an open wound
- Direct physical contact between a bat and exposed skin
- Rabies can be transmitted through abrasions and open cuts
Whenever you find a bat in your home, you should do all that you can to remain calm to not excite the bat even more, and try to catch the bat without killing it. The reason you do not want to kill the bat or release it out into the wild is so you can send the bat in for testing. If you do happen to hurt the bat when you are trying to catch it, do not step on the bat’s head as they need to be able to test the brain to find out if the bat has rabies or not. This is so very important because in the event a live bat does come into your home and you are not sure if you have been bitten or scratched (in case you have been sleeping). You will want to know if the bat has rabies or not so you will know if it is absolutely necessary to get tested or not.
You should always try and find the bat if:
- If you wake up and find a bat in the living quarters that had access to where a person was sleeping
- Find a bat in the same room with an unattended child
- Find a bat in the same room with a mentally impaired person (dementia, Alzheimer’s, etc.)
So what if a bat bites? If a bat bites, you should wash the wound immediately with soap and water. The bitten person should get rabies shots immediately if the bat escapes or is tested positive. If possible, capture the bat and bring it to the nearest health department for testing.
There have been a total of 25 human rabies cases in the United States from 2009-2018. From 1960 to 2018, there have been 127 human rabies cases reported in the United States, with roughly a quarter resulting from dog bites received during international travel. Of the infections acquired in the United States, 70% were attributed to bat exposures, with the rest coming from skunks, raccoons, and foxes.