What diseases can bats transmit to humans?
Bats do not commonly attack or bite humans, but precautions should be taken around bats because they can transmit both rabies and histoplasmosis. Rabies is typically transmitted through the bite of a rabid animal, and in the United States there are only 1-2 cases of human rabies each year. However, most of the human rabies cases result from contact with a bat. Although it is estimated that rabies is carried in less than 1% of bats, it is a potentially fatal disease and; therefore, bats should NEVER be touched with bare hands or skin. Histoplasmosis is a respiratory infection caused by fungus spores in soils that contain large amounts of bird or bat feces. Histoplasmosis is common in the central and eastern United Stated, but is rarely found in Utah’s dry climate.
What should I do if I have a bat inside my home?
If a bat is observed inside your home you should call Davis County Animal Services at 801-444-2200 in order for the bat to be removed and tested for rabies, if needed. Animal Services should only be called if the bat is in the actual living space of a home.
What should I do if a bat bites me?
If a person is bitten by a bat, seek medical care immediately. Wash the bite with soap and water and notify your doctor and the Communicable Disease & Epidemiology Division of the Health Department. Effort should be made to capture the bat for rabies testing, preferably done by an Animal Control Officer. You can also do this if you find the bat lying on the ground by placing a jar or container over the bat and sliding a piece of cardboard underneath it to trap it inside.
What should I do if I find that my pet has been playing with a bat?
Often pets are found playing with bats and it is unknown if the bat has bitten the pet or if the pet has bit the bat. In this case, the bat should also be captured for rabies testing using the method described in the previous section. Notify Davis County Animal Services at 801-444-2200. To avoid complications, ensure your pet stays current with its rabies vaccination.
How can I get rid of bats roosting on my home or colonizing inside my attic?
In Utah, it is illegal to intentionally kill bats. All species of bats are protected and some species have Federal Protection under the Endangered Species Act. All efforts to prevent bats from roosting or colonizing on structures should happen in the fall season after bats have had their babies (pups) and begin migrating to a winter location.
The following actions may be taken to discourage bats from coming back to your home or business:
- Cool attics with fans to make it uncomfortable for bats to reside in the space.
- Shine bright lights in areas where bats are known to roost.
- Seal any cracks larger than ¼” in the roof or siding of your home with caulking, hardware cloth, foam rubber, foam sealant, or similar materials.
- If unsure if bats have all left when you are ready to seal any openings you can place bird netting over the openings attached on the top and the sides, with the base open. Any remaining bats will be able to drop down the netting to leave, but will not be able to re-enter. Leave the netting in place for 4-5 days and then seal the openings.
- Prepare an alternate roost site. You can provide the bats an alternative place to go by building a bat box and attaching it to a tree or structure 12-15 feet off the ground and out of direct sunlight.
What assistance can the health department provide me?
In most cases the Health Department only gets involved with bat complaints when someone has had contact with a bat, a bat is found inside their home, or they observe their pet playing with a bat. In these cases the primary concern is the possible exposure to rabies and capturing the bat. The testing of the bat for rabies is coordinated through the Davis County Animal Services.
The Health Department is limited in its capacity to deal with complaints regarding bats roosting on or near a home or business. In most cases the Health Department is only able to educate the complainant about the precautions they can take and possible remediation.
The only regulatory action the Health Department has the authority to take on complaints regarding bat roosting or colonies is if the problem is determined by a Health Department representative as being a public health nuisance.This typically only occurs when there is an excessive amount of bat feces or guano piling up in a public location. In this case the Health Department could issue a Notice to the owner with a timetable to remediate conditions that are favorable to the bats. This timeline must coincide with the natural migrations of the bats as they are still protected under Federal and State laws.