Important information about bat season, preventing the spread of rabies

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Bat season is underway in Michigan and the Berrien County Health Department is sharing important safety information with members of the community to help prevent the spread of rabies. More information can be found in the release below.

As temperatures drop and bats seek warmer havens, the Berrien County Health Department shares
information with community members to help prevent the spread of rabies.

Rabies is an acute and fatal disease that is transmitted to humans by exposure to animals infected with rabies. The virus is present in the saliva of an infected animal. It enters the body through a break in the skin caused by the teeth of a rabid animal or when scratches, abrasions, or mucous membranes become contaminated with the saliva of an infected animal. In 2021, there were five rabies deaths in the US.

In Michigan, most of the positive cases of rabies are in bats. Other wildlife more likely to carry or be infected with rabies in Michigan are skunks, foxes, raccoons, and woodchucks.

If you are bitten by a bat, wake up to find a bat in your bedroom, or find a bat in a room with a sleeping person, unattended child, cognitively impaired person, or intoxicated person, precautions should be taken to ensure that rabies infection does not occur. Bat bites are so small that a person may not always know if they have been bitten.

To determine if a bat has rabies and what medical attention it might need, the animal must be captured alive and taken to Berrien County Animal Control, which will coordinate with BCHD to send the bat for testing to the Department of Health and Human Services. Humans of Michigan. . The bat must be brought in alive to ensure proper testing can be done. If the bat dies, place it in a container and store it in the refrigerator until you receive further steps from animal control. If the bat is not caught and tested, the exposed person will need to receive the rabies vaccination series.

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The rabies vaccine series consists of four shots given over 14 days and is very expensive, even with insurance. Capturing the bat and testing it for the disease will help better determine the best course of treatment.

“Although rare in humans, rabies is a painful and fatal disease that is preventable if the right steps are taken,” said Elizabeth Sullivan, public health researcher at BCHD. “We hope to educate the community on how to safely interact with bats and other wildlife so they can protect themselves and their loved ones while limiting the need for a costly, time-consuming and painful course of treatment.”

To catch a bat safely, you’ll need gloves, a small container or coffee can, a piece of cardboard or a thin plastic cutting board, and duct tape. To catch the animal:

Put on gloves before trying to catch the bat.
Wait for the bat to stop.
Slowly approach and place a small container on top of the bat.
Slide the cardboard or cutting board under the container, trapping the bat inside.
Once the bat is in the container, tape it shut so it can’t escape.
Put some very small holes, less than a quarter of an inch, in the container to keep the bat alive.
Please contact Berrien County Animal Control at 269.927.5648 Monday through Friday from 8:30 am to 4 pm for instructions on next steps. After hours, call the Berrien County Dispatch non-emergency line at 269.983.3060.
The bat will be sent to MDHHS for testing and results will be available within five days. Once the results are received, the Department of Health will work with you to determine the necessary medical treatment.

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You can prevent your risk of exposure to rabies by avoiding contact with wild animals. Never approach, touch or feed wild animals. If you store food outdoors, store it in a sturdy container with a tight-fitting lid.

You can also make your home less accessible to wildlife by installing a chimney cap and sealing openings around your home, such as attics, crawl spaces, or areas under your porch or deck.

For more information on rabies and the safe capture of bats, visit www.bit.ly/BCHDRabiesPrevention.