As the cooler weather sets in and bats start looking for warmer settings, the Eastern Ontario Health Unit (EOHU) is reminding residents to exercise caution and keep their distance from bats. A higher number than usual have tested positive for rabies over the last few months.
What to do if you were exposed to a bat
If you or a loved one was bitten, scratched or had other physical contact with a bat, wash the skin that was exposed with soap and water right away (or hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available) and call your family doctor or head to the emergency room immediately.
“It is essential that individuals who were in contact with a bat seek treatment immediately,” says Dr. Paul Roumeliotis, Medical Officer of Health at the EOHU. “Rabies can be prevented if it is treated immediately, before symptoms appear. But once symptoms occur, rabies is almost always fatal.”
Because it may not be possible to know if a child was bitten or scratched by a bat, you should take them to an emergency room right away for treatment if they were exposed. Often, bat bites are not visible as their teeth are as sharp as needles.
Prevent bats from entering your home
To reduce the chances of bats getting into your house, seal any cracks or openings where bats can get in. Bats can enter homes through openings as small as 1 centimetre in diameter. For more information about how to bat-proof your home, contact a pest management company or a wildlife conservation agency.
What to do if you discover a bat in your home
If you find a live bat in your home, avoid contact with it. Try to release the bat to the outdoors by confining it to one room, turning off the light and opening a window so that it can fly out on its own. This will likely occur at night as that’s when bats are active.
If the bat doesn’t leave on its own, contact a pest management company so they may safely remove it from your home. Do not attempt to capture a live bat as this could lead to a bite or scratch.
If you find a dead bat in your home or on your property, contact the EOHU at 613-933-1375 or 1 800 267-7120. The health unit will make arrangements to have the bat picked up and shipped to a laboratory for testing.
Protect your pets from rabies
Bats infected with rabies also pose a risk to your pets. Make sure your pets’ rabies vaccinations are up to date. Rabies vaccination is mandatory in Ontario for domestic cats and dogs, as rabid pets can infect humans.
For more information about how to protect yourself, your loved ones and your pets from rabies, check out the EOHU’s website at www.EOHU.ca.