“While bats are essential for our ecosystem and most bats are harmless, we need to remember that in some situations, bats can be a threat to our health,” says Susan Nelson, DVM. “Any possible contact with bats by people or pets needs to be taken seriously.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the furry fliers account for one third of the 5,000 rabid animals reported in the U.S. each year and are responsible for roughly seven in 10 deaths among people infected with the virus.
“The bottom line is if an individual who cannot communicate they had contact with a bat… is found in a room with a bat, they are considered exposed,” Dr. Nelson says. “And, because pets can’t communicate this to their owners, they are considered exposed if found in a room with a bat.”
Veterinarians should advise clients to keep their pets’ rabies vaccinations current. Further, if there is a possibility of bat exposure, the pet should be taken to a clinic within 96 hours and for a rabies booster if the bat is unavailable for testing.
“Respect bats and what they do for our environment, but do take any possible exposure seriously,” Nelson says. “And, if you happen to overhear someone talking about any situations that could be considered as possible exposure to a rabid bat to themselves or a pet, do them a favor and recommend they submit the bat for testing or seek the advice of their physician or veterinarian if it is not available for testing. You may just save a life.”