Health department: Bats pose rabies risks

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) Bats are more likely to transmit rabies to humans than any other animal and that’s why the Fort Wayne-Allen County Department of Health is warning people about what they should do if they find one.

First, if a bat is found in your home, don’t kill it or set it free if there’s a chance it came in contact with someone or a pet. You should capture the bat and contact an animal control officer to have it tested for rabies. So far in 2014, seven bats have tested positive for rabies in Indiana. In 2013 10 bats tested positive.

To safely capture a bat indoors, close the windows, room and closet doors, turn on lights, and wait for the bat to land. Wearing long sleeves and heavy gloves, cover the bat with a pail, coffee can or similar container. If you spot a grounded bat outdoors, you can prevent further contact with people and pets by covering it with a pail or similar container and then calling the animal control office.

Rabies is a viral disease of the central nervous system that is almost always fatal once symptoms begin. The virus is carried in the saliva of infected animals and is usually transmitted to people and other animals when they are bitten or scratched by the rabid animal.

Bats present an additional concern because they have small, sharp teeth which may not leave a visible mark. Persons exposed to bats are often given the rabies vaccine as a precaution, especially if the bat is found in a room with young child, a sleeping person, an intoxicated or mentally-impaired person.

While it is still a low percentage of bats that do carry rabies, a bat that is active during the day, is unable to fly, or is found in a place where bats are not usually seen, such as a room in your home, is more likely to be rabid.

In many cases the treatment is unnecessary if the bat can be safely captured and found to be rabies-free.

If you suspect a bat has bitten you or another person, immediately wash the wound with soap and water and then seek medical attention. Fort Wayne residents should call the Fort Wayne Animal Care & Control or ask their healthcare provider or the emergency room staff to fax a completed bite report form to (260) 427-5514.

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