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Exposed to Bat

Published: May 14, 2012
Dear TeenHealthFX,


This may sound strange, but on a recent road trip with my mom, we found a bat in our car. Although it did not bite either of us, we figured it must have been in there for awhile. It was sickly when released (we did not touch it) but is it possible we could have gotten rabies from the exposure to its feces/saliva/whatever? Should we get rabies shots just in case? Or if we do become ill, since we are aware of the exposure, would there be time for treatment?



Signed: Exposed to Bat

Dear Exposed to Bat,


Although it is highly unlikely that you contacted rabies from this incident TeenHealthFX strongly recommends for you and your mom to make an appointment with your doctor to have him/her check you out. Since bat bite are mostly painless and some hard to detect your doctor may want to give rabies prophylaxis (preventive treatment for a disease.)


Most bats don’t have rabies. For example, even among bats submitted for rabies testing because they could be captured, were obviously weak or sick, or had been captured by a cat, only about 6% had rabies. Rabies in humans is rare in the United States. There are usually only one or two human cases per year


You can get rabies from an infected bat if you are bitten or infectious material such as saliva or brain material (if it is dead) gets into your eyes, nose, mouth or an open wound. You cannot get rabies from having contact with bat feces, blood, or urine, or from touching a bat on its fur.


Rabies can only be confirmed in a laboratory. But any bat that is active by day or is found in a place where bats are not usually seen like in your home or car could be rabid. A bat that is unable to fly and is easily approached could very well be sick. Here is what the Center For Disease Control (CDC) advises what you should do if you have direct contact with a bat:


“While rabies can be caused from non-bite exposures, such an occurrence is rare. Assuming the bat did not bite a person prior to its death; the risk of rabies from a dead bat is remote. If there is any uncertainly about exposure to rabies, a person should contact the local or state health department. In the event that exposure does not appear to have occurred, a dead bat can be wrapped in plastic and discarded in appropriate facilities. Local and state animal control departments can provide further guidance on proper disposal of dead bats and other animals.”


When a person is infected with the rabies virus, the virus multiplies in the body until symptoms develop. This time between infection and onset of symptoms is called the incubation period which can last from a few days to several years. Early symptoms of rabies of rabies in humans are similar to flu like symptoms. This can include:


·         Fever

·         Headache

·         General tiredness

·         Discomfort, numbness or pain at the site of the bite.


As the disease progresses, neurological symptoms appear and may include:


·         Insomnia

·         Anxiety

·         Confusion

·         Slight or partial paralysis

·         Excitation

·         Hallucinations

·         Difficulty swallowing


If you believe that you have been exposed to rabies, seek medical attention immediately. A rabies treatment is available, but must be administered before symptoms of rabies appear. If the symptoms of rabies develop, there is no cure for the disease. This is why many doctors will treat rabies even if there is the slightest chance you could have been exposed.


Not only bats but other wild and domesticated animals can carry rabies even if they appear very friendly. Do not allow bats or any other wild animal in your home. If you are bitten you should wash any bite wound thoroughly with soap and water and seek medical attention immediately, even in the absence of an obvious bat bite. You should not dispose of bats before having them tested for rabies. Testing the bat can decrease the number of unnecessary rabies vaccinations and ensure exposed individuals are treated.


People in the Northeast United States and into Virginia have seen a tremendous increase in the number of dead bats over the last 5 years. More than a million bats have died from what has been called “White Noise Syndrome” named because of a white fungus that develops around the noses and wing membranes of many of the bats impacted which cause bats to emerge from cave crevices and other hibernation spots in the dead of winter. They take flight, burning up crucial fat reserves stored in the fall, and drop dead. This syndrome is not related to rabies.





Signed: TeenHealthFX