Health Department

Where Bats Hang Out

Bats love to snuggle up in tight places: sleeves of stored winter jackets, toes of boots left in the garage, and most recently in one Erie resident’s toaster! It gave new meaning to the phrase “crispy critter”. The toasted bat was no risk to humans, but a bat hiding in clothing does create a chance of people to get scratched or bitten. The injury itself is relatively harmless, unless the bat happens to be carrying the deadly rabies virus. Preventive treatment for this fatal disease needs to begin before the first rabies symptoms occur, but people have to recognize the risk to seek treatment.

How  To Deal With Bat Bites

Historically, most deaths from rabies occurred because people did not acknowledge this threat. The fact that a person can be scratched or even bitten without feeling this minor trauma to the skin is what makes exposure to bats so dangerous. This is why the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends a “better safe than sorry” approach for rabies vaccination. A person who has had an actual or potential scratch or bite from a bat should receive vaccine and another medicine called rabies immune globulin. Potential situations include: presence of a bat in a room with a small unattended child, a mentally disabled or impaired person, or a person who has been sleeping.

There is no need for “rabies shots”, if the bat can be caught and is tested negative for the rabies virus. The Erie County Department of Health (ECDH) can assist anyone who needs guidance about testing or treatment. ECDH addresses all reports of animal exposures that could transmit rabies to humans at 814-451-6700.

Prevent Exposure

The best approach is to prevent the exposure in the first place. Most of the 228 bat exposures in 2008 were reported July through September. Homes with unscreened windows or small openings around the attic offer easy access for bats. Spring and fall are the best times to bat-proof your home. Find detailed instructions in the Guide to Bat Control. A home owner may need to seek the services of a wildlife pest control specialist.

Protect Your Pets

It is still crucial that pet owners keep their cats and dogs up to date on their rabies vaccine. This is a most effective measure each household can do to protect their family from rabies. Together the Erie County Department of Health and its citizens can lower the risk of being exposed to rabies from wildlife or domestic animals.

Erie County Courthouse - 140 West Sixth Street, Erie, PA 16501 - (814) 451-6000 - TDD Phone: (814) 451-6237 - Hours: Monday through Friday, 8:00am to 4:30pm
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