Bats and Rabies
Cases of rabies in bats in the Eastern Ontario Health Unit area have increased in the last two years.Seeing as bats can spread rabies, a fatal disease, it is essential to know what to do if you or a loved one are exposed to a bat. It is also important to bat-proof your home to prevent them from entering your residence.
Prevent bats from entering your home
To reduce the chances of bats getting into your house, seal any openings where bats can get in, such as chimneys, building corners, pipes that penetrate ceilings or walls, or between shingles. Bats can enter your home through openings as small as 1 centimetre in diameter. For more information about how to bat-proof your home, contact a pest management company or a wildlife conservation agency.
What to do if you discover a bat in your home
If you find a live bat in your home, avoid contact with it. Try to release the bat to the outdoors by confining it to one room, turning off the light and opening a window so that it can fly out on its own. This will likely occur at night as that’s when bats are active.
If the bat doesn’t leave on its own, contact a pest management company so they may safely remove it from your home. Do not attempt to capture a live bat as this could lead to a bite or scratch.
If the bat is found in a bedroom or other area where people sleep, visit your local hospital to discuss your next steps, especially if the animal is found in a child’s room. Bat’s teeth are quite sharp and don’t always leave marks, so you may not realize you have been bitten.
If you find a dead bat in your home or on your property, contact the EOHU at 613-933-1375 or 1-800-267-7120. The health unit will make arrangements to have the bat picked up and shipped to a laboratory for testing.
As with live bats, if you find a dead bat in a bedroom, or other place where people sleep, you should visit your local emergency room straight away.
If you or a loved one have been exposed to a bat
If you or a loved one were bitten, scratched or had other physical contact with a bat, wash the skin that was exposed with soap and water right away (or hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available) and head to the emergency room immediately. Consult a healthcare provider as soon as possible to find out if you need to be treated.
Rabies can be prevented if it is treated immediately, before symptoms appear. However, once symptoms occur, rabies is almost always fatal. In recent years, several people have died of untreated rabies in North America. In 2019, a man in British Columbia died from rabies, after he was bitten by a bat without his knowledge.
What to do if a child was exposed
Because it may not be possible to know if a child was bitten or scratched by a bat, you should take them to an emergency room right away for treatment if they were exposed.
Often, bat bites are not visible as their teeth are as sharp as needles. It is therefore recommended that all young children and adults who are unsure if they were exposed get treatment right away.
Protect your pets from rabies
Bats infected with rabies also pose a risk to your pets. Make sure your pets’ rabies vaccinations are up to date. Rabies vaccination is mandatory in Ontario for domestic cats and dogs, as rabid pets can infect humans. Consult the EOHU’s Protect Yourself and Your Pet from Rabies document for more information.
More information on rabies can be found here:
- Protect Yourself and Your Pet from Rabies (PDF)
- Rabies and Animal Bites
- Rabies (Ontario Government)
- Rabies (Government of Canada)