The Dutchess County Department of Behavioral & Community Health (DBCH) is reporting a significant increase of exposure to animals that may have rabies. For 2020 to date, DBCH has investigated 111 reports of potential exposures of people or domestic animals to bats, which represents a nearly 30% increase from last year. Bats in the homes of county residents continues to be a problem with DBCH reporting a significant increase in bats found inside homes with window air conditioning units.
Rabies is a viral infection that affects the nervous system of mammals. The virus is spread through the saliva and nervous tissue of rabid animals. People and animals are usually exposed to rabies through a bite from an infected animal. Exposure can occur if the saliva or nervous tissue of a rabid animal enters an open wound or mucous membrane (such as the eyes, nose, or mouth). Since the small teeth of a bat can make a bat bite difficult to detect, the presence of a bat in a room with a sleeping person, unattended child, or an intoxicated or mentally compromised person is also considered a possible exposure.
You can greatly reduce your risk of exposure and rabies can be prevented if you:
”I strongly encourage all residents to inspect the area around their air conditioning units. It is important that the gaps around air conditioners are sealed properly to keep bats out, and that the top sash hasn’t slid down,” said A. K. Vaidian, MD, MPH, Commissioner. “Carefully seal around window air conditioners, especially between the window sashes, with foam, fabric, or other suitable material to prevent bats from gaining entry through gaps.”
While bats are gentle and not aggressive, they do carry and transmit diseases, namely rabies. Due to their small size, bats can easily squeeze into very small gaps (1/2 inch), such as in between the upper and lower window sashes, roof eaves, attic fans and vent openings.
To learn of more ways to safeguard your surroundings and how to handle a possible exposure to rabies, visit: DutchessNY.gov/Rabies.