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KCHD urges caution as bat and human interactions increase in August 

This bat was captured on August 17, 2017 in Kent County.

This bat was captured on August 17, 2017 in Kent County.

In the past several days the Kent County Health Department (KCHD) has started to receive reports from people who have had contact with bats indoors. While these types of encounters are not uncommon in August, any direct contact with a bat represents a potential exposure to rabies.

It is critically important to capture the bat for testing if there is reason to believe a person may have been bitten or scratched by a bat. Do not release a bat if you find it in the room of a sleeping person, an unattended child, someone who is mentally impaired or an intoxicated individual as they may have been bitten without their knowledge.

A captured bat in Kent County will be sent to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services for testing. If the bat tests negative for rabies, then no treatment is required. However, if a bat tests positive, or if the bat is not available for testing then the exposed person should receive the post-exposure prophylaxis for rabies.

To safely capture a bat, experts recommend that you wear leather gloves to avoid being bit. Place a box or a coffee can over the bat and then slide a piece of cardboard under the container to trap the bat inside. Secure it with a piece of tape and contact the Kent County Health Department at 616-632-7200 during regular business hours. If you know that you have been bitten or scratched by the bat and the exposure has occurred outside of normal business hours, seek medical attention but keep the bat.

While relatively rare in the United States, human cases of rabies are almost always associated with bats.

Rabies is a viral disease that affects the central nervous system and is invariably fatal once symptoms appear.

“Bat encounters rise every year during late August and early September,” says Adam London, Administrative Health Officer at KCHD. “We can’t stress enough how important it is to be able to perform tests on these animals. Unless you are certain that no one has been bitten by a bat you find in your home, please do not let it go.”

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