The Chattanooga-Hamilton County Health Department says they have has responded to several reports of bats discovered in homes.
Bats are the third largest carrier of rabies, according to the Health Department.
A person may be bitten or scratched by a bat and may not know it, especially for children, the mentally impaired, or sleeping or intoxicated individuals.
According to Tammy Burke, Clinical Director of the Health Department, “Once an individual begins to exhibit symptoms of rabies, the disease is virtually 100% fatal.”
Although none of the recent incidents have resulted in human infection, Health Department officials want to remind the public of the risk of rabies and how to prevent it.
Bats should not be in homes. When bat-proofing your home, consider the following:
Examine carefully for holes that might allow bats entry into living quarters. Any openings larger than a quarter-inch by a half-inch should be caulked
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
Consider consulting with a professional pest/wildlife control company for assistance in bat proofing your home
If bats are discovered in human dwellings and a bite or scratch from a bat cannot be positively ruled out, people should be evaluated by medical professionals. According to Leah Sergeant, Rabies Control Officer for the Health Department, ”The top carriers of rabies in our area are raccoons, skunks, bats, foxes, and coyotes, but any mammal is capable of carrying and transmitting the virus.” In general, these animals are nocturnal animals and are wary of humans, so if they approach you during the day it should be considered an abnormal behavior.
Abnormal or aggressive behaviors could indicate an infected animal. Keep a safe distance and remember:
Never handle bats or unfamiliar animals, wild or domestic, even if they appear friendly
Wash any wound from an animal thoroughly with soap and water and seek medical attention immediately
Contact the Health Department if a bite or any other exposure to rabies occurs
Have the bat or other animal tested for rabies if exposure to people or pets occurs (do not touch the animal without a barrier, such as leather gloves, and call the Health Department for assistance with testing)
Be a responsible pet owner by keeping rabies vaccinations current for all pets
Contacts with bats and all animal bites should be reported to the Health Department.
Between January and April of 2015, 239 bites have been reported. To report exposures or potentially rabid animals, the public is directed to call the Environmental Health Services Division of the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Health Department at 423-209-8110. More specific information can be found on the Health Department’s Rabies website at health.hamiltontn.org/EnvHealth/RP.aspx or from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) at cdc.gov/rabies.