|Health dept. addresses outbreak of dead bats
By Tom Marshall
Senior Advocate writer
There has been an outbreak of bats, most of them dead, found recently downtown.
Buddy Wilson, an environmentalist with the Montgomery County Health Dept., said there have been between 15 and 20 dead bats found in downtown Mt. Sterling over the past few weeks.
Six were sent off to the University of Kentucky Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory in Lexington to be tested for rabies, Wilson said.
Five tested negative and one test was deemed inconclusive. Wilson said the body of the one bat may have been too damaged to conclusively test.
Officials are unsure what’s killing the bats, which appear to be juveniles.
Wilson said a great deal of the bats have been found in an L-shaped area running from the Montgomery County Courthouse down Bank Street to Locust Street to the Montgomery County Health Dept.
Wilson warns the public to not make contact with any dead bats you may encounter.
There have also been a few live bats spotted downtown.
Wilson said one live bat was found at the health and civic center and another landed on his shoulder as he was searching a local business. He said he swatted away the bat before it could bite him.
The health dept. is concerned about the local bat population because some bats are infected with rabies and 90 percent of all rabies deaths in the U.S. are the result of bat bites, Wilson said. Rabies is also nearly 100 percent fatal.
“Rabies is one of the biggest concerns we have,” he said.
Wilson said bats are often found in old houses, particularly in city environments, so people should be cautious. He warns that people who wake up to find a bat in their bedroom should be tested and start rabies vaccinations immediately because it is not uncommon to not feel a bat bite.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has produced a pamphlet to educate the public about bats.
The pamphlet dispels some of the rumors and legends about bats that are not true.
Bats are not blind, the pamphlet notes, and they are neither rodents or birds. Only three species in Latin America feed on blood after inflicting small bite wounds—and most bats do not have rabies.
You cannot get rabies from having contact with bat feces, the CDC notes.
Bats also play key roles in ecosystems around the globe, from rain forests to deserts especially by eating insects, including agricultural pests.
Bats can reportedly eat up to 6,000 mosquito-sized insects in one night, according to health dept. officials.
The CDC notes that rabies can only be confirmed in a laboratory.
However, they warn that any bat that is active by day, found in a place where bats are not usually seen (for example, a room in your home or on the lawn), or unable to fly, is far more likely than others to be rabid.
Such bats are often the most approachable, the CDC notes.
Because there is no guarantee that a rabid bat will behave any differently than a normal one, it is best never to handle any bat, the CDC warns.
If you are bitten by bat—or if infectious material (such as saliva) from a bat gets into your eyes, nose, mouth or a fresh wound—wash the affected area thoroughly with soap and water and get medical advice immediately, the CDC advises.
Whenever possible the bat should be captured and sent to a laboratory for rabies testing, the CDC says.
If you think your pet or domestic animal has been bitten by a bat, the CDC says you should immediately contact a veterinarian or your health dept.
The CDC recommends that you keep vaccinations current for cats, dogs and other animals.
While some bats live in buildings and there may be no reason to evict them if there is little chance for contact with people, they should always be prevented from entering rooms of your home, the CDC says.
For assistance in “bat-proofing” your home, the CDC suggests you contact an animal control or wildlife conservation agency.
If you choose to do the “bat-proofing” yourself, the CDC makes some suggestions.
It urges the public to carefully examine your home for holes that might allow bats entry into your living quarters. Any openings larger than a quarter-inch by a half-inch should be calked, the CDC says.
The CDC suggests you use window screens, chimney caps and draft-guards beneath doors to attics, fill electrical and plumbing holes with steel wool or caulking and ensure that all doors to the outside close tightly.
Additional “bat-proofing” can prevent bats from roosting in attics or buildings by covering outside entry points, the CDC says.
The CDC suggests you observe where the bats exit at dusk and exclude them by loosely hanging clear plastic sheeting or bird netting over these areas.
The CDC notes that bats can crawl out and leave, but cannot reenter. After the bats have been excluded, the openings can be permanently sealed.
The CDC also notes that during summer, many young bats are unable to fly. If you exclude adult bats during this time, the young may be trapped inside. For this reason, the CDC suggests that you avoid exclusion from May through August.
The CDC suggests you “bat-proof” your home in the fall or winter when the bats hibernate.
Anyone bitten by a bat should seek immediate medical attention. They should also report it to the health dept. at 498-3808.
The dept. has a Rabies Post-Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP) Protocol for People Exposed to Animals that will help people determine whether they should be tested.
For more information on what to do if you encounter a bat, see the story above at right.