MEDIA ADVISORY: Residents Urged to Reduce Risk of Rabies Exposure by Avoiding Bats

June 24, 2019


Contact: Laura Brinson

Residents Urged to Reduce Risk of Rabies Exposure by Avoiding Bats

FLORENCE, Ky — This time of year, Northern Kentucky families may discover some unwelcome and potentially dangerous visitors in their homes – bats. Since bats can carry the rabies virus and expose people and their pets to this fatal, but preventable disease, residents need to know what to do if they are bitten, scratched, or otherwise come into direct contact with a bat.

“The Health Department has already had numerous bat exposures reported this year from residents who had them in their home or touched a bat they found outside,” said Lynne M. Saddler, MD, MPH, District Director of Health. “It’s important to avoid contact with bats to the extent possible, and to take the right steps if exposed in order to prevent becoming infected with rabies.”

Rabies is a fatal, but preventable infection of the brain and spinal cord that can spread to people and pets if they are bitten or scratched by a rabid animal such as a bat. Bats have tiny, sharp teeth and often leave no bite marks. This can make it difficult for someone to know if they have been bitten, especially in situations where a sleeping person awakens to find a bat in the room or an adult sees a bat in a room with an unattended child, mentally disabled person, or a person who is under the influence of medications or alcohol. The rabies virus can be spread from minor or unrecognized bites or scratches from bats, or contact with its brain or spinal tissue.

For anyone with a bat in their home or who has direct contact with a bat (including bites or scratches), the Health Department urges taking the following steps:

  1. If possible, safely capture the bat in a container so that it can be tested for rabies. Please visit https://nkyhealth.org/individual-or-family/healthy-life/animal-bites-and-rabies/ for safety precautions.
  2. Contact the Health Department at 859.341.4151 for information about submitting the bat for testing, and additional information about exposures and the need for vaccinations.
  3. Wash any wounds with soap and water for 10 minutes.
  4. Contact your health care provider immediately. Remember that rabies is a medical urgency, but not an emergency. Decisions should not be delayed as you may need to have vaccinations to prevent the onset of rabies. The rabies vaccine is nearly 100 percent effective when given in a timely manner and generally involves an antibody shot and the first rabies shot, followed by a series of three additional rabies shots over a period of two weeks.

For more information on rabies, please visit https://nkyhealth.org/individual-or-family/healthy-life/animal-bites-and-rabies/

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The Northern Kentucky Health Department provides high quality public health services to more than 400,000 residents of Boone, Campbell, Grant and Kenton Counties, with a goal of preventing disease, promoting wellness and protecting against health threats. The Health Department seeks to be a nationwide leader in public health, and was one of the first in the country to earn national public health accreditation. For more information, visit www.nkyhealth.org.