Sunday, January 1, 2012

Two rabies infections at the end of 2011. Be careful with bats!

There is no need to freak out about bats. They are wonderful little creatures whose insect-eating habits also are a great help to homeowners who want to enjoy their land and yards. However if you should ever come in physical contact with a bat, or if you aren't certain if you've been in contact with one (for example, you wake up with one flying around your bedroom) you MUST capture the bat and have it tested for rabies.

Two people have recently contracted rabies. The disease is almost always fatal.

I keep an empty coffee can in my house. A plastic container also works, if the lid doesn't have a very deep lip. You wait until the bat is resting on a surface, put the can over the bat, and gently slide the lid underneath. The bat will make small chattering noises, and you may see the feet or a wing tip stick out as you ease the cover under the can. There's no need to worry. Just be gentle and calm and you'll shortly have the bat confined.

If the bat is acting normally and you are absolutely sure no people or pets have come in contact with it, you can release the bat outside. If the bat is acting lethargic (just hanging, not flying at all, or is having problems flying), has come in contact with a person or pet, or has been in the room with a sleeping person or a child, the bat should be tested. Call your health department immediately. Check their web site in advance. Chances are good they will have instructions there. Tioga County NY has a hotline number. Tompkins County has a good fact sheet.

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