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Snohomish County Health District: Bats in the home need to be handled with care

The following is a release from the Snohomish County Health District:

Beware of bat bites and scratches. Most bats are harmless, but about 1 in 100 bats caries rabies.

Bats like to “hang out” in vacation cabins, attics, barns and outbuildings, and wherever there are plenty of insects they can eat. A bat bit a toddler in Pasco last year after falling out of a patio umbrella. The toddler got treatment to prevent rabies even before the bat was tested for the disease. Rabies is almost always deadly.

Last year, 32 people in Snohomish County got a series of shots to prevent the virus after possibly being exposed to rabies. Thanks to such preventive efforts by public health, no cases of rabies exposure in Washington state have advanced to human rabies disease since 1997.

Anyone who might have been bitten, scratched or simply sleeping in a place where a bat is later found should contact Snohomish Health District Communicable Disease staff at (425) 339-5278.

Bats found in a home or setting where they may have contacted humans should be safely caught:

  • Close the doors and windows to the room
  • Find a small container like a box or a large can
  • Wait until the bat lands on the floor or a wall
  • Wearing leather gloves, put the box over the bat
  • Close the box by sliding an extra piece of cardboard under the opening
  • Leave some small air holes in the sealed box
  • Call us for advice

We will help you determine if any people or pets in your home may have been exposed to rabies, and can arrange to test the bat if needed. If a bat is not available for testing and people have been exposed to it, rabies shots are usually necessary.

In the Northwest, bats are the only animal likely to carry rabies, though there have been cases of pets getting rabies from bats, and of dogs infected with rabies being brought in from other countries.

For more information about bats and rabies, visit the state Department of Health websitehttp://www.doh.wa.gov/YouandYourFamily/IllnessandDisease/Rabies.aspx

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