Lake County News Release
May 15, 2012

Leslie Piotrowski
(847) 377-8055

Carolyn Waller

 (847) 377-8099

Lake County Health Department

Use Caution Around Bats
The Lake County Health Department/Community Health Center is urging Lake County residents to avoid contact with bats. So far this spring, there have been two reported incidents of rabid bats - one in Beach Park and one in Lake Villa. Neither case involved human contact, but six dogs were potentially exposed and several were quarantined.

When a human or other mammal is infected with rabies, the virus attacks the central nervous system and the result is almost always fatal.  In Illinois, rabies is found more often in bats than any other form of wildlife.

In 2011 three bats in Lake County tested positive for rabies, but there was no human exposure to the bats. Rabies and the medical costs involved after exposure are fully preventable. Most commonly, people get rabies from the bite of a rabid animal. In other cases, people can contract rabies if any infectious material from a rabid animal, such as saliva, comes in contact with one's nose, mouth, an open wound or gets directly into the eyes.  

The Health Department is urging anyone who has direct contact with a bat or notices a bat acting in an unusual manner, such as flying in daylight, or lying on the ground or in your home, to contact the Health Department's Animal Care and Control program at (847) 949-9925. If the bat is inside of your house, do not chase it away because it may be needed for rabies testing. Close the doors and keep people away from the room where the bat is located. Trained animal wardens will remove the bat at no cost to the resident or refer the caller to the appropriate jurisdiction. Health officials are urging residents to avoid touching, hitting or destroying bats. When dead bats are submitted to state labs for rabies testing, they need to be undamaged.

Parents should make sure children know that they should never touch bats, especially those clinging to a tree or lying near or on the ground. The bat may not be dead, just ill, and could bite. Bats have small, sharp teeth and a bite may go unnoticed. For example, if you awaken and find a bat in your bedroom, if you see a bat in the room of an unattended young child, or if you see a bat near a mentally impaired or intoxicated person, consult a doctor or the Health Department.

If a human is exposed to a rabid bat, a medical professional would likely recommend a treatment of four vaccinations available only through large hospital emergency rooms. Rabies vaccinations for humans can be expensive, possibly costing several thousand dollars. Health insurance may or may not cover the cost.

Pet owners should be on the alert for bats in or near their homes, because indoor and outdoor pets can easily come into contact with these animals. If a rabid animal bites a pet, the pet may, in turn, bite a person, transmitting rabies to that individual.  Rabies can be avoided in pets by vaccination, which is why a rabies vaccination is required for dogs and cats.

The Health Department can also refer callers to bat exclusion companies and provide information on methods for excluding bats.  Bats can be excluded from living quarters by covering chimneys and vents with half-inch hardware cloth screens, by installing draft guards beneath doors, and by sealing any other possible access routes, especially around screen doors, windows and plumbing.  Bats potentially can enter holes as small as 3/4" in diameter. They do not chew insulation or otherwise make new holes. These potential entries must be covered or plugged.  For small crevices, silicone caulking may help.  If a large bat colony must be evicted from a wall or attic, careful observations should be made at dusk to find entry holes (also sometimes recognizable by stains around used holes or crevices or by droppings beneath). The holes should be plugged after the bats emerge to feed (which they do during evening hours).
While bats can transmit rabies, they are also beneficial animals. Some species can eat up to 600 insects in an hour. Besides mosquitoes, bats eat crop-destroying pests, like moths, beetles and grasshoppers.

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