Bats & Rabies

Rabies is a fatal disease caused by a virus. It is usually spread to humans from infected animals. If you are bitten or scratched by a bat, or if you find a dead bat in a bedroom, you must call our office immediately at 360-778-6000. One of our staff will talk to you and make recommendations to protect you from rabies.

  • Call us at 360-778-6000 if you think you or someone in your home may have been exposed to a bat. We will help you decide if you need to capture the bat to be tested for rabies and what you should do next.
  • People exposed to rabies should get treatment as soon as possible. Rabies is very rare but almost always fatal after symptoms develop.
  • If you receive medical care quickly after being exposed to rabies, the disease is 100% preventable. Treatment is a series of shots that contain a vaccine against rabies.
  • Pets (dogs, cats and ferrets only) and other animals can get rabies if they are bitten by a rabid animal. Protect pets and yourself by getting your pet vaccinated. Washington State law requires that dogs, cats, and ferrets are vaccinated against rabies.

How is rabies spread?

Bats are the main carriers of rabies in Washington State, but they can pass it on to other animals or people through their saliva or brain tissue. Between 3% - 5% of bats tested for rabies in Washington State test positive.

Rabies is usually spread to humans by animal bites. It can also be spread if saliva from a rabid animal comes into contact with your eyes, nose, or mouth, or through a break in your skin, like a cut or scratch. Rabies does not survive well outside the body, and once saliva dries, the virus dies.

How can I prevent rabies exposures?

Make your home bat-proof 

Bats are more active in warmer weather. They might find their way into your garage, home, barn, or other areas around your home through open doors or windows. You can make it less likely they’ll take up residence around your home by:

  • Securing window screens and keeping doors without screens closed.
  • Using chimney caps and draft-guards beneath doors to attics.
  • Filling electrical and plumbing holes with stainless steel wool or caulking.
  • Caulking openings larger than ¼ inch by ½ inch.

If you think bats are living in your house or on your property, contact a professional to have them removed.

Do not touch wild animals 

Don’t handle wild animals. Teach children never to touch or handle bats, even dead ones, and to tell an adult if they find a bat.

Vaccinate your pets 

Dogs, cats, and ferrets are required to be vaccinated against rabies. When your pets are vaccinated, both you and your pet are better protected against rabies.

How do I know if I’ve been exposed to rabies?

Bats have very tiny teeth, and that can make it hard to know if you were bitten by a bat. Someone may have been exposed to the rabies virus if:

  • They are bitten by a bat or another wild or stray animal.
  • They came into contact with a bat through their eyes, nose, or mouth, or have an open cut or wound on their skin.
  • They find a bat in a bedroom where someone is sleeping, or if the person is unable to say for certain the bat had no contact with them. Small children, someone who was asleep, or someone who was intoxicated may not know if they were touched or bitten by the bat.

You aren’t at risk for rabies if:

  • You touched a bat with intact, unbroken skin. For example, picking a dead bat up by a wing with the index finger and thumb is not a rabies exposure risk.
  • You found a bat in a room where people were not sleeping.
  • You found a bat outside where there has been no contact with the bat. Bats are a healthy part of the ecosystem and a protected species.

Only bats that have been found indoors or are a concern for rabies exposure risk should be tested for rabies.

What do I do if I find a bat?

Call us at 360-778-6000 if you think you or someone in your home may have been exposed to rabies through contact with a bat or if you were bitten by a wild animal. We may need to test the bat. The Whatcom Humane Society can help with capture of a bat in your home. We will also help you determine what other steps to take.

What if I’ve been exposed?

If you’ve been bitten, clean the site with soap and water. Call us at 360-778-6000 and also contact your health care provider.

Rabies is 100% preventable when you get medical care right away. People who are exposed to rabies get post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP), which is a series of shots, over a two-week period. The shots contain a rabies vaccine that will prevent you from getting rabies disease. Your healthcare provider will help you decide if you should start PEP.

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