Bat Safety

There is a wise saying, "Don't wait until it rains to fix the roof," What's true about keeping out rain also applies to protecting your home against bats.

It is not unusual to find bats in Broome County homes. Bats live throughout New York State in both rural and urban areas. Most (96%) bats tested at the NYS Rabies Laboratory are negative for rabies. "However, because many of the human rabies cases in the United States since 1990 seem to have been from an unrecognized bat bite in the home, it is important to try to keep bats out of your home", said Diane O'Hora, Director of Health Education, Broome County Health Department.

"Keeping bats our of your home is a good first step to protect yourself against rabies. Bats, raccoons, skunks and foxes are the most common carriers of rabies in New York State," she said. In 2002, New York State reported 102 confirmed rabies positive bats.

In spring and summer, two species of bats, commonly known as the big and the little brown bat, roost in attics, behind shutters and in other sheltered areas of homes and buildings. Other common points of entry and roosting sites are under roofing or siding, the underside of a porch roof, between the house and chimney, vents, rafters and behind hollow walls.

If you suspect bats are roosting in your house, watch for them leaving at dusk or entering just before dawn. To keep bats from entering your home take the following steps to "bat-proof" it:

  • Do not leave unscreened windows or doors open to the outside;
  • Make sure windows have screens, chimneys are capped, and electrical and plumbing openings are plugged;
  • Seal up all openings larger than ½ inch by ½ inch square into the attic, basement, walls, or occupied areas of the house;
  • Use materials such as expanding spray-on foam, caulk, wire mesh, tightly fitting wood, steel wool or polypropylene bird netting to seal or cover holes.

Remember that house bats can pass through crevices as this as a pencil. Before bat proofing, make sure there are no bats already in the roost. The best time to bat-proof is late fall through winter.

The Broome County Health Department does not recommend using chemicals or pesticides to kill bats, because it is not a permanent solution; creates a risk of exposure to humans; and causes sick or dying bats to be grounded in the community, further increasing the chance of contact with people and pets.

"Most bats are healthy and contribute to our environment in many ways, particularly by controlling insects. However, every area of New York State has some bats, which are infected with rabies. Because pets are more at risk from rabid bats, it's important that dogs and cats more than three months old be vaccinated each year," Ms. Chytilo said. "It is now New York State law that all cats must be vaccinated against rabies". "Even if your cat doesn't go outdoors, your cat is at risk of coming into contact with a bat in your home".

Bats, which are infected with rabies, quickly show symptoms. Avoid contact with any bat, especially one that is outdoors during daylight, on the ground or paralyzed. Parents should teach children never to handle a bat or any other wild animal.

Bats rarely attack humans. However, any physical contact with a rabid bat may transmit the disease. People usually know when a bat has bitten them but bats have small teeth and the bite marks may not been seen.

If you find a bat in the room of an unattended or sleeping child, a mentally impaired or intoxicated person or a pet, capture the bat safely and call the Broome County Health Department immediately. During regular business hours contact the Environmental Health Services Division at 607.778.2887. After hours and on weekends call Broome County Dispatch at 607.778.1911. If the bat is not captured or tests positive for rabies, every person and pet that may have been exposed should receive rabies shots as soon as possible. Unvaccinated pets will have to be confined for 6 months.

If there is any chance that a person or pet was in contact with a bat, capture the bat without touching it. If indoors, close windows, room and closet doors, turn on lights, and wait for the bat to land. Wearing gloves, cover the bat with a pail, coffee can or similar container. It you spot a grounded bat outdoors, you can prevent further contact with people and pets by covering it the same way. All bat-related incidents should be reported to the Broome County Health Department at 607.778.2887.

The Front Street Dog Shelter Alliance in conjunction with the Broome County Health Department is having a rabies vaccination clinic on Saturday, August 9, 10:00 AM - Noon in the Town of Dickinson at the Prospect Terrace Fire Station. This is a good opportunity for Broome County residents to have their dogs, cats or domesticated ferrets vaccinated.

Vaccinations are available at no cost. A $5.00 donation is requested but not required. All animals must be at least three-months-old and under the control of the owner at the clinic. Animal owners must bring a Certificate of Immunization to the clinic for animals immunized previously.

For more information about protecting yourself and your family from rabies, call the Broome County Health Department Information Line at 607.778.3911, option 5 or visit our website at www.gobroomecounty.com/hd/.