BNW log BNW log

Bats Northwest

"helping bats in Washington State"

Bats and my health

Questions

  1. My neighbors have a bat house. Am I in danger from bats they may attract flying around my house?
  2. Am I in danger from bats living in my attic?
  3. Am I in danger from a bat that got into my house?
  4. Don't most bats have rabies?
  5. Are my pets in danger from bats?
  6. Where can I learn more about bats and rabies?

Answers

  1. My neighbors have a bat house. Am I in danger from bats they may attract flying around my house?

    No. Bats are part of the normal environment and they are there in some numbers every spring and summer. You are not in danger from bats flying around your house. If a neighbor's bat house is successful, the only change would be that the bats living there would do their first hunting close by and help rid the area of such pests as mosquitoes. In spring and summer, bats are flying around at all times of the night, just as birds are during the day. We are just less aware of them because it is harder to see them.     Back to Top.

  2. Am I in danger from bats living in my attic?

    You are not in immediate danger if they are not flying into your living areas. The danger lies in physical contact. Rabies is the #1 concern with bats. It is a virus that is spread by the saliva of infected animals that are in the last stages of the disease. Usually it is passed on through a bite, but there is some evidence that humans can also contract rabies if this saliva comes in contact with an open sore or mucous membrane. Bats living in an attic would not be close enough to people to be an immediate threat. However, living with bats opens up the possibility that one could find its way into the living quarters. Also, bats roosting there can build up substantial amounts of guano. In the eastern part of the United States, this can be a source of histoplasmosis. In the west, there is no evidence of that, but it is still best to exclude bats from your attic.     Back to Top.

  3. Am I in danger from a bat that got into my house?

    You could be if the bat has come in contact with a family member or a pet. If you have doubts, contact your doctor or the Health Department. Usually bats that get in houses are juveniles. In the summer they are just learning to fly and hunt, and they can get themselves into trouble through lack of experience. However, because bats can have rabies, you need to evaluate the situation before deciding on an action. If the bat has come in contact with someone, it should be caught and turned over to the Health Department for testing. (It is also considered an exposure if a bat is found in the room where someone was asleep. Bat bites can be quite small and might not wake a sound sleeper.) If you know the bat was not in contact with anyone, you can shut it in a room after opening the windows, and let it find its way out again.     Back to Top.

  4. Don't most bats have rabies?

    Very few bats have rabies. And bats are not "carriers" of rabies - spreading the disease without being harmed themselves. All mammals can contract rabies. In this country it is most commonly found in foxes, raccoons, coyotes, skunks and bats. Some studies indicate that about 1/10th of one percent of a wild population may be infected with the disease. Because it is a deadly disease, rabies is not something to take a chance with. Whenever an animal is acting strangely, it should be avoided. If a wild animal allows you to approach it, something is wrong. Bats should never be handled without protection from bites. And any possible exposure should be taken seriously. Post exposure shots can be given to protect a person.     Back to Top.

  5. Are my pets in danger from bats?

    Yes. Any mammal can contract rabies. A few years ago here in Washington a llama died of rabies contracted from a bat. Cats are especially susceptible because they are natural hunters of flying creatures and often catch bats. The bat's only defense is to bite. It is very important to have your pets vaccinated against this disease, even if they are "indoor" pets. Bats sometimes find their way into houses and an unvaccinated pet that is exposed may have to spend months in quarantine or be euthanized.     Back to Top.

  6. Where can I learn more about bats and rabies?