Rhode Islanders Urged to Bat Proof Homes
The Department of Health advises Rhode Islanders that the seasonal increase in reports of potential rabies exposures continues, and recently, there have been a number of exposures to bats throughout the state.
“When the outside temperatures increase, we tend to see bats leave attics and go into other cooler areas of houses,” said Director of Health Michael Fine, MD. “We want to remind people to bat proof their homes and to continue to use common sense when dealing with domestic, stray or wild animals. Bat rabies is highly transmissible to humans, and can be transmitted without being bitten or scratched by the bat. As a result, when we receive reports of potential exposure to a bat, the rabies vaccinations are recommended even if there is no visible bite mark or if the bat is not available for rabies testing.”
Bat Rabies Prevention
- Hire a licensed professional to bat proof your home. For a list of licensed professionals, visit http://www.dem.ri.gov/programs/bnatres/fishwild/pdf/relok8rs.pdf.
- If there is a bat in your house, try to confine the bat to one room (close all doors and windows) and call a licensed professional to remove the bat(s). Do not go back into the room until the bat is caught. Keep all pets away from the bat.
- If you cannot reach a licensed professional to catch a bat, HEALTH and the Department of Environmental Management (DEM) recommend that to safely catch a bat so that it can be tested for rabies, put on leather gloves and slowly approach the bat when it lands. Place a clear, see-through container over the bat. Slide a lid under the container to trap the bat inside. Securely tape the lid to the container, and punch small holes in the lid so the bat can breathe. Contact HEALTH at 222-2577 (8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.) or 272-5952 after hours to make arrangements for rabies testing.
- If you have been scratched or bitten by a bat or any other animal (even your own pet), have touched an animal you do not know, or see a bat in your home, contact HEALTH at 222-2577 (8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.) or 272-5952 after hours. HEALTH is the only agency that can authorize the use of rabies vaccine. If there is any possibility your pet animal(s) had any contact with a bat, call your local animal control officer or police department.
- Use screens on any open windows. Repair holes in screens.
General Rabies Pevention
- Do not touch or pet stray animals, wild animals, or animals that you do not know. If you see a domestic animal (cat or dog) that is acting strangely or you think is a stray, call your local animal control officer or police department.
- If your pet has been in a fight with another animal or pet or has open wounds after being outside, try to avoid touching them with bare hands and keep them isolated as much as possible. If you must touch them, wear rubber gloves. Immediately report the incident to your local animal control officer or police department. If necessary seek treatment from a veterinarian and make sure you tell your veterinarian that your pet was injured by another animal.
- Do not feed any stray domestic or wild animals. Feeding stations tend to attract all types of animals and can present an opportunity for transmission of rabies to people or other animals when an animal with rabies is attracted to a feeding station.
- Report wild animals that are displaying unusual behavior to DEM at 222-3070. Unusual behavior can include aggression, loss of fear, loss of coordination, apparent blindness, seizures, convulsions, extreme depression, or coma.
- Cover and secure any trash that is outside. Trash can be a food source for stray or wild animals. Animals infected with rabies are likely to be attracted to unsecured trash.
- Make sure your pet(s) are up to date on their rabies vaccination. If you are not sure about your pet’s vaccination status, call your vet and check.
Rabies is a virus that is transmitted to humans or other mammals through the saliva of an infected animal. The virus usually enters the human body through a break in the skin (bite, scratch) or by coming in contact with an infected animal’s saliva and then unknowingly touching your eyes, nose, or open wound. Timely vaccination after rabies exposure is 100% effective in preventing human rabies. Once there is disease onset, the illness is almost always fatal.