Rabies & Bat Encounters

Bats & Public Health

Good judgment will help eliminate the chances of humans and wildlife coming in close contact with each other. Children should be taught never to go near or pick up a bat; any wild animal will bite when handled. Have dogs and cats vaccinated against rabies, obey leash laws, and keep cats indoors. Seal all openings in buildings which are the size of a quarter or larger to prevent bats from entering.

Situations & Solutions

Because bats are so efficient at controlling many of the insect species considered pests by humans, it is advantageous to leave them alone. Where bats inhabit buildings they are usually unobtrusive, hanging quietly from rafters during the day and exiting at night in search of food. Unlike squirrels, they are not destructive and do not gnaw on wood or wiring.

Single Bat in a Living Space

Unintentionally, bats may enter areas occupied by humans through an open window or door, or an opening from a colonized attic or wall. A bat indoors is not necessarily a sick bat; it may be a young bat who tried to follow its mother outside and took a wrong turn or it may have followed a moth through an open window.

According to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (MDPH) if there is a possibility that the bat came in contact with people or pets it should be captured for testing. If possible, confine the bat to 1 room and call the local animal control officer or a private pest control company and the MDPH at 617-983-6800, open for 24 hours for more information. An attempt can be made to capture the bat if it lands in a spot where a coffee can or wide mouthed jar can be safely placed over it. Slide cardboard under the coffee can, leave the bat under the container and notify the local animal control officer or police. It will be transported to the MDPH Laboratory for testing.

Bat in Child's Room

In all situations where a bat is found in a child's room (or even an adult's room), contact the MDPH in Jamaica Plain, MA at 617-983-6800 (24 hours). Because a bat's teeth and claws are so small, it's impossible to determine whether someone has been bitten. Therefore, it's up to the MDPH to determine whether you or your child should receive post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) shots.

Other Areas

Confine the bat to one room by closing doors. Open windows, turn off the lights and leave the room. Hitting the bat or throwing things at it will cause it to become disoriented making it harder for the bat to find its way out. Do not try to capture the bat unless there is the possibility it has bitten or scratched someone. Make an attempt only if the bat lands and there is no risk in placing a wide-mouthed jar or coffee can over it. Contact the health department or police department.

Bats & Rabies

As with most mammals, including dogs and cats, bats can carry the rabies virus, but it is estimated that the number is less than one percent. Rabid bats are rarely aggressive toward humans and usually die shortly after becoming infected. According to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, there has never been a confirmed case of bat-transmitted rabies in the state.

Rabies is a viral disease that attacks the central nervous system and once symptoms begin it is always fatal. The virus is found in the saliva of an infected animal and transmitted through a bite or scratch, or if infected saliva gets into an open cut or wound. If you suspect someone has been exposed to rabies, wash the area with copious amounts of soap and water for 10 minutes. Contact a doctor or local hospital and the State Department of Public Health at 617-983-6800.

Rabies Treatment

There is now an effective vaccine that can be given to a person immediately after exposure to the rabies virus which will prevent them from getting rabies. The treatment no longer requires a series of shots in the stomach and is now just 6 shots given over a four to 6 week period.