Environmental Health – Bats And Rabies

Bats and Rabies

Although bats may be helpful to humans by consuming insect pests, some bats are infected with rabies and can transmit the disease to humans and other animals by biting, scratching, or through saliva contact with eyes, nose, mouth or an open wound.

Care should be taken to avoid all contact with bats, but if contact with a person or pet does occur (or you are not sure if contact occurred), call Benton County Environmental Health Division at 541-766-6841 for assistance.

Bat Bites and Rabies

If you are bitten by a bat – or if infectious material (such as saliva) from a bat gets into your eyes, nose, mouth, or a wound – wash the affected area thoroughly with soap and water and get medical advice immediately. There may be a need to update your tetanus immunization and/or obtain antibiotics, your doctor will know. Whenever possible, the bat should be captured and refrigerated to send to a laboratory for rabies testing.

People usually know when they have been bitten by a bat. However, because bats have small teeth which may leave marks that are not easily seen, there are situations in which you should seek medical advice even in the absence of an obvious bite wound. For example, if you awaken and find a bat in your rooms, see a bat in the room of an unattended child, or see a bat near a mentally impaired or intoxicated person, seek medical advice and have the bat tested.

People cannot get rabies just from seeing a bat in an attic, in a cave, or at a distance. In addition, people cannot get rabies from having contact with bat guano (feces), blood, or urine, or from touching a bat on its fur (even though bats should never be handled!).

Capturing a Bat Loose in Your Home

If a bat is present in your home and you cannot rule out the possibility of exposure, leave the bat alone and contact an animal-control or public health agency for assistance. If professional help is unavailable, use precautions to capture the bat safely, as described below.

What you will need:

  • Leather work gloves (put them on)
  • Small box or coffee can
  • Piece of cardboard
  • Tape

When the bat lands, approach it slowly, while wearing the gloves, and place the box or coffee can over it. Slide the 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. Contact your health department or animal-control authority to make arrangements for rabies testing.

If you see a bat in your home and you are sure no human or pet exposure has occurred, confine the bat to a room by closing all doors and windows leading out of the room except those to the outside. The bat will probably leave soon. If not, it can be caught, as described, and released outdoors away from people and pets.

Here is a short video describing how to safely catch a bat; click to play the video: