Watch out for bats during winter

December 6th, 2018 | News, News and Features

Fall is upon us in the Hudson Valley and despite our best controls, unwelcome animals, to include bats, will seek refuge in your home as the cooler weather arrives.
Why do bats want to inhabit your home? Bats hibernate from late fall (October/November) through early spring (March/April). It was previously believed that bats solely migrated to caves or mines for winter hibernation, but we now know that many will hibernate inside homes and other structures where there is an opening in the exterior and when temperatures are above 45 degrees Fahrenheit. Unlike rodents and other animals looking to enter your home, bats do not chew their way into homes or attics. They use small openings and holes that already exist, such as attic vents, which they locate by sensing air currents and differences in temperature, to enter. The greatest health concern is that bats, like other mammals, can carry and transmit to humans the rabies virus, which is preventable, but fatal if left untreated.
Why and when should you seek medical treatment for an animal exposure, to include exposure to a bat? In the United States, human fatalities associated with rabies occur in people who fail to seek medical assistance, usually because they were unaware of their exposure. If you are bitten or scratched by a known or unknown animal, exposed to any animal bodily fluids in your eyes, nose or mouth, or have another bat exposure then seek immediate medical treatment.
A bat bite may be so small that it could go undetected.  You will be evaluated for treatment by a medical provider for the following:
•    Direct contact with a bat, i.e., touched by a bat
•    Bat found in a room with a sleeping person
•    Bat found in a room with or near an unattended child
•    Bat found in a room with a person with sensory or mental impairment or under the influence of alcohol or drugs
Although any mammal can carry the rabies virus, rabies is most prevalent in wild animals, especially bats, skunks, raccoons, feral cats and dogs, coyotes and foxes. It is difficult to tell if an animal has the rabies virus as rabies symptoms can take weeks to appear, and not all animals exhibit the common symptoms (foaming of the mouth, unusual behavior [e.g., daytime sightings of nocturnal animals] and loss of muscular/nervous system control). After washing wounds with soap and water, seek medical evaluation promptly for all animal bites or bat exposures/encounters.
Again, if left untreated, rabies is almost always fatal.  All local area medical treatment facilities, including Keller Army Community Hospital, can provide post-exposure treatment for rabies.
For more information about rabies, go to the New York State Department of Health page at https://www.health.ny.gov/diseases/communicable/rabies/fact_sheet.htm or the National Centers for Disease Control and Prevention page at https://www.cdc.gov/rabies/.
If you discover you have bats or other unwelcome animals in your home/attic, do not disturb the animal, but instead contact:
•    West Point Pestmaster Services – (845) 446-1317
•    West Point Natural Resources – (845) 938-7122
Come in contact with an unknown animal?  Seek immediate medical attention to assess your risk for rabies.