Bat Exposure Scenarios

Potential Exposure Scenarios to Rabies Through Bats and Bat Capture Tips

In general, if you find an injured, sick, or dead bat, do not touch it. If you need assistance, contact your local animal control agency or local health department.

Bat bites are not always visible. Therefore, in situations in which a bat is physically present and there is a possibility of an inapparent exposure, the bat should be captured and submitted to a rabies laboratory for testing. If rabies cannot be ruled out by laboratory testing, people with a reasonable probability of an exposure may be recommended for rabies postexposure treatment (or for domestic animals, a requirement for a booster vaccination(s) and quarantine or euthanasia). Scenarios that may indicate a reasonable probability of exposure to rabies include:

  • a child touches a live or dead bat;
  • an adult touches a bat without seeing the part of the body they touched;
  • a bat flies into a person and touches bare skin;
  • a person steps on a bat with bare feet;
  • a person awakens to find a bat in the room with him/her;
  • a bat is found near an infant, toddler, or a person who is sensory or mentally challenged; or
  • a person puts their hand in firewood, brush, a crevice, or a dark space (i.e. a closet), experiences pain, then sees a bat.

Immediately call your local animal control agency to have a trained officer sent to capture the bat. If you are unable to reach anyone for assistance, recommendations for bat capture are as follows:

  • remove any children or pets from the room;
  • wear leather gloves;
  • avoid direct contact between the bat and bare skin;
  • confine the bat to one room by closing the windows and doors;
  • turn on the lights if the room is dark;
  • wait for the bat to land;
  • cover the bat with a coffee can or similar container;
  • slide a piece of cardboard under the can that has the bat trapped; and tape the cardboard directly to the can.

If any possible contact between the bat and a person or domestic animal has occurred:

  • do not release the bat; and
  • contact your local animal control agency or law enforcement agency to arrange for immediate submission of the bat for rabies testing.

If you are certain no contact between the bat and a person or domestic animal has occurred:

  • take the container outside immediately; and
  • release the bat, preferably at night and away from populated areas.

When capturing a bat, avoid striking it if at all possible. Physical trauma can damage the brain and make it impossible to conduct rabies laboratory tests.

Thanks is given to the New York State Department of Health for various information contained in their "Rabies Policies and Procedures: Guidelines for Managing Bats and Risk of Rabies Transmission."