Because of a steady increase in rabies cases involving bats, the Allegheny County Health Department is urging residents to report all bat encounters, even if they’re not sure they’ve been bitten or otherwise exposed to the animal’s saliva.
The latest case involves a plumber who was bitten by a rabid bat on the arm at a worksite in Bethel Park. The man was given anti-rabies vaccine to prevent the fatal disease from developing.
Bat bites can be so tiny they may leave no marks visible to the naked eye and so painless they may not even be felt by a victim.
Officials urge residents to call the health department at 412-687-ACHD (2243) when you come in contact with a bat. Bat encounters should be reported immediately.
The Health Department will evaluate the risk and test the bat, if available, for rabies to determine if treatment with anti-rabies vaccine is recommended.
The vaccine is highly effective and prevents rabies when given shortly after exposure, health officials said.
Handling a bat
If you find a bat and are unsure whether you’ve been exposed, wear a pair of heavy-duty gloves and capture the bat by placing a container such as a large bowl over it and sliding a piece of cardboard underneath to trap the bat inside. Cover the container with a lid or cap. Call your local animal control officer to capture the bat and euthanize it for testing, if you are unable to do so yourself.
Bats can fit through openings as small as 3/8ths of an inch, so seal all openings that might give bats access to your house or cover them with a fine-meshed screen.
Thirteen rabid animals, including six raccoons and one cat, have been reported in the county so far this year. Six people have been treated with anti-rabies vaccine and none have contracted the disease.