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Communicable Disease Response and Control

Bat Exposure in the Home

A major concern with exposure to bats is rabies.  An exposure would be any direct physical contact between a human and a bat (unless the exposed person is certain that a bite, scratch or mucous membrane exposure did not occur).  Examining a person for evidence of a bat bite is unreliable and should NOT be used to determine if contact has occurred. Persons handling a bat can be exposed to rabies through small or unapparent cuts or rashes of the skin.

Examples of rabies exposure due to direct physical contact with a bat:

  • A bat has bitten or scratched someone
  • A bat is found in the room with an unattended child, intoxicates or mentally incapacitated person and it is not known if direct contact with the bat occurred.
  • A person wakes to find a bat in the room and is not certain if direct contact with the bat has occurred.

Rabies is transmitted only when the virus is introduced into wound bites, open cuts in the skin, or onto mucous membranes from saliva or other potentially infectious material such as brain or neural tissue.  Rabies is not transmitted via contact with blood, urine or feces, or touching fur.  The virus becomes inactive with drying.

If a bat is found in your home, it is important that the bat tested is the same bat the person was exposed to.  A bat is considered unavailable for testing if:

  1. The bat was not caught.
  2. More than one bat has been in the area.
  3. The bat 'disappeared' and then 'came back', or
  4. Case cannot confirm if it was the same bat.

Contact Information:

Whatcom County Health Department

509 Girard Street

Bellingham, WA 98225

Disease Response and Control

360-676-6724

Fax: 360-676-7646

Immunizations/TB

360-676-4593

Fax: 360-676-6772