2012 News Releases

Department of Behavioral & Community Health

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August 17, 2012        Print version

Be Aware of Rabies and Bats

With the recent unusual reports of rabid cats and beaver as reported in the news, the Dutchess County Department of Health reminds residents that most cases of rabies are found in bats.  The first laboratory-confirmed rabid bat of this year was captured by a Dutchess County resident last week. The resident initially saw the bat flying around inside his home, lost sight of it, and later found the bat on the floor, in another room.

“Every year, especially during the warm summer months when bats are active and have more opportunity to feed on insects, we see an increase in the number of bat and human encounters,” said Commissioner of Health Michael C. Caldwell, MD, MPH. “Most bats do not have rabies and help to reduce the amount of insects in our area. However, since bat bites are difficult to see and may not be felt, individuals may not realize they have been bitten by a bat.”

Caldwell recommends the following advice for those individuals who find a bat in their home:
If a bat is found in the home and you are absolutely certain no one had contact with it, close the room and closet doors, and open the windows.  Watch to make sure that the bat leaves the room before closing the window and allowing others to return to the room.

If there is any chance a bat may have had contact with a human or a pet, you should attempt to capture the bat without damaging it so it can be tested for rabies.   For example, if you find a bat in room with a sleeping person, unattended child, a mentally impaired or intoxicated person, try to catch the bat. Testing will determine it the bat has rabies and if the individual needs post-exposure treatment.

An online video demonstrating how to catch a bat is available at http://bit.ly/DCDOH-Videos and includes the following steps to capture a bat that may have had contact with a person or pet:

1. Confine the bat to one room by closing all windows and doors, turn on the lights, and wait for the bat to land.

2. Wearing gloves, approach the bat slowly, cover the bat with a coffee can or similar container and slide a piece of cardboard or lid under the can trapping the bat. Following this procedure will ensure that the bat’s brain remains intact, which is necessary for testing.

3. Tape the cardboard or lid to the container and place the container in a refrigerator or in a cooler of ice.

4. Call the Dutchess County Department of Health at (845) 486-3404 to make arrangements for the bat to be tested for rabies. If it is after work hours or on the weekend or a holiday, please call (845) 431-6465.

If you are unable or unwilling to capture the bat, see your local yellow pages for pest and wildlife handlers.

The Dutchess County Department of Health also reminds individuals that, in addition to bats, other animals can carry and transmit rabies.  These include raccoons, foxes, and skunks, as well as domesticated animals like dogs, cats, ferrets, and livestock. Any exposure to a potentially rabid animal through either a bite or its saliva should be reported to the Dutchess County Department of Health at 845-486-3404. Steps should be taken to safely capture the potentially rabid animal for follow-up.

Rabies is a serious illness and can be fatal. Don’t delay evaluation if you think you have been exposed to rabies.

In Dutchess County, nearly 50 individuals undergo rabies post-exposure treatment annually, many of these are due to contact with animals that were not captured and therefore not tested.  Capturing and testing the animal ensures that those who were exposed to rabies will receive lifesaving treatment, and eliminates unnecessary treatment of individuals who were not exposed.

More information about rabies is available at www.cdc.gov/rabies; www.health.state.ny.us/diseases/communicable/zoonoses/rabies/





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A. K. Vaidian, MD, MPH,Commissioner of Behavioral & Community Health A. K. Vaidian, MD, MPH
Commissioner of Behavioral & Community Health
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