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For Release: October 1, 2009
Contact: Pamela Williams
Office of Communications 
(405) 271-5601

Bats Could Pose Rabies Risk for Oklahomans

More bats in Oklahoma are testing positive for rabies this year and the Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) is advising Oklahomans to be aware of the risk of getting rabies from bats.  During the fall and winter, bats are migrating and searching for places to hibernate, increasing the chances that humans may come into contact with a bat during this time of year.  Thus far in Oklahoma in 2009, there has been a total of 12 cases of rabies in bats, including 10 bats confirmed with rabies in August and September. Only one bat tested positive for rabies in the state in 2008.

Rabies is a viral disease that can be transmitted to animals and humans mainly by a bite, but exposure may also occur through contamination of broken skin or mucous membranes with saliva from an infected animal. Bats are a source of rabies in Oklahoma for other animals and humans.  Although most bats do not have rabies, any bat that is active by day, found in a place where bats are not usually seen (i.e., in a room in the home or on the lawn), or is unable to fly, is more likely to be rabid.  Such bats are often the most easily approached and handled.  Therefore, it is best never to handle any bat.

The OSDH offers the following steps to avoid getting rabies from bats:

  • Avoid handling bats.  Teach children to avoid handling bats and other unfamiliar animals, wild or domestic, even if they appear friendly.  Children should not bring bats to school for show and tell.
  • If you are bitten by a bat, wash the bite wound with soap and water and seek medical attention.  Do not release the bat.  Contact the local animal control authority or county health department to discuss testing the bat for rabies.
  • Vaccinate your animals against rabies to protect yourself, your pets and your community.
  • If you think your pet was bitten by a bat or is found playing with a bat, consult your veterinarian.
  • “Bat-proof” your home by closing holes larger than a quarter-inch by a half-inch with caulk.  Use window screens, chimney caps, and draft-guards beneath doors to attics.  Most bats leave in the fall or winter to hibernate, so these are the best times to "bat-proof" your home.

If a bat is found in your home, leave the bat alone and contact animal control for assistance.  If professional help is unavailable, use precautions to capture the bat safely. When the bat lands, approach it slowly with a container (i.e., box or coffee can), while wearing gloves, and place the container over it. Slide a piece of cardboard under the container to trap the bat inside. Tape the cardboard to the container securely, and punch small holes in the cardboard, allowing the bat to breathe. If a person or animal was potentially exposed, contact the local animal control authority or county health department to discuss testing the bat for rabies.

People usually know when they have been bitten by a bat. However, most types of bats have very small teeth which may leave marks that disappear quickly. There are situations in which you should seek medical advice even in the absence of an obvious bite wound. For example, if you awakened because a bat landed on you while you were sleeping, if you awakened and found a bat in your room, if you see a bat in a room with an unattended child, or see a bat near a mentally impaired or intoxicated person, try to safely capture the bat and have the bat tested, and seek medical advice.

Click here for additional information about animal rabies.


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