Yes, Bats Can Carry Rabies!
Almost everybody knows that bats are carriers of the rabies virus.
If allowed to go untreated, a rabid animal bite is essentially guaranteed to result in death.
Why is it, then, that we aren’t constantly on the lookout for bats? We do have them in America — they aren’t uncommon. In fact, there is a higher likelihood of contracting rabies from bat bites than dog bites in this country.
Furthermore, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) suggests that those who are so much as exposed to bats should seek medical evaluation, even if they weren’t bitten. This further begs the question: why aren’t we more worried about bats?
The Lowdown on Bats
In any given year, the total instances of rabies in America range from one to three cases. Bat bites aren’t prevalent despite the mythological quality upholding the rabies virus. Americans are educated in the basics of the rabies virus (i.e. do everything you can to avoid it), resulting in very rare instances of bat-to-human contact.
Bats are unlikely to approach humans out in the open, and homeowners are likely to contact a bat removal specialist as opposed to trying to remove invading bats themselves.
That said, you shouldn’t take bat contact lightly. Bat biologist Monica Murphy notes that bats, while the most common transmitters of the virus, can be stealthier in terms of physical ailment. She explains that people bitten by a fox or raccoon are more likely to feel immediate discomfort, driving them to get medical treatment. Bat transmission may be harder to detect, instilling doubt in the victim about whether to seek help.
What to Do if You or Someone Else Are Bit
If there is any doubt in your mind after an encounter with a bat (or other animal), don’t fret. Modern medicine has essentially a 100% success rate in treating post-exposure rabies bites. It simply isn’t the death sentence it used to be. It is of the utmost importance, however, that the bite be treated with urgency.
- Get to a hospital immediately
- Once treated, make sure the bat is confined to the area where it came in contact with you or another person.
- Call animal control or a wildlife conservation agency
The stats say that the rabies virus, although deadly, is highly unlikely to infect Americans. An overwhelming majority of people are familiar with the danger of contracting rabies, compelling them to take immediate action when contraction is suspected.
As long as you’re familiar with the proper procedure, there is simply no reason for you to worry about contracting rabies. The cases are too few to make any sort of blip on the radar of deadly diseases.