More rabid bats bedding down -

More rabid bats bedding down

No creature of the night strikes terror in the hearts of man quite like the bat. And while folklore has linked these winged mammals to witchcraft and vampires, there's a real-world reason to beware of bats:Some carry a fatal disease that has no cure.

Dr. Elizabeth Broel is a veterinarian with the Department of Public Health Sciences at the University of North Carolina, Charlotte. She says, "Rabies is a virus that causes encephalomyelitis, which is basically swelling and inflammation of the brain and spinal cord. And it's actually the most fatal infectious disease out there."

She notes that bat bites are by far the most common way for a human to become exposed to rabies.

"The key to surviving rabies is getting medical attention before any symptoms of infection appear," she says. "You want to get care immediately, because once your symptoms start, even with the post-exposure treatment, the chances of survival are very slim."

There are two warning signs that indicate a bat is likely to be rabid:

  1. If you see one during the day
  2. If a bat is unable to fly

"If there's one on the ground, flopping around or just laying there, don't ever pick up a bat. Most likely there's rabies involved and it's dangerous, dangerous, dangerous," stresses Animal Control Operator Chris Steffey.

Steffey gets a lot of calls from homeowners with bat troubles. He says bats often dwell in attics and under roof tiles. A whole colony of bats was discovered living under the tiles of one house in Miami. Chris says if you have a tile roof, you should definitely check for cracks.

Holes around window frames can give bats access to the walls of a house. And once bats take up residence inside your walls, they can live and reproduce for years without detection. 

Steffey says there are things you can do to minimize the risk of having a bat infestation.

"Go up and seal every single crack, opening, everything you can find. Expansion foam, caulking, aluminum flashing. And I'm talking chimney cracks. I'm talking every kind of crack on that house that you can find," says Steffey.

Because bats help control insect populations, they are government-protected. If your house is infested, you need an animal control specialist who knows how to extricate the bats without harming them. But don't delay! It may be illegal to kill a bat, but even the smallest bite could kill you.

"A bat bite can feel as small as just a tiny pin prick," says Broel. "So if someone is in a deep sleep and a bat is in their surroundings, they could be bitten and not even know it."

Only two Americans are known to have survived rabies after the onset of symptoms. So remember, if you're ever bitten by a bat or any other rabid animal, time is of the essence.

Copyright 2012 America Now. All rights reserved

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