Albany County Health Department Urges Bat Safety

The Albany County Health Department has issued an advisory for residents to be aware that bats may carry rabies and to capture any bats that come in contact with humans or pets for rabies testing.

Only a small percentage of bats are infected with rabies, but they still do pose a threat. Any contact with a bat is a concern, including a bite, scratch, saliva contact to your eyes, nose, mouth or an open wound or any other physical contact. The rabies virus is present only in the saliva and nervous tissue (brain and spinal cord) of an infected bat. People cannot get rabies from having contact with bat guano (feces), blood or urine.

People should be aware that bats have small sharp teeth, which may not leave a visible bite mark, and a bite from a bat during the night may not awaken a sleeping person. If you are sleeping and awaken to find a bat in your room; see a bat in the room of an unattended child or a mentally disabled or intoxicated person; or if there is any chance that a bat had contact with a pet, the bat should be captured and tested for rabies.

The Albany County Health Department advises to use caution when capturing a bat. To capture a bat:

  • If indoors close all windows, room and closet doors, turn on the lights and wait for the bat to land.
  • Wearing heavy gloves, cover the bat with a pail, coffee can or similar container.
  • Slide cardboard under the container to trap the bat inside and tape the cardboard to the container.
  • If there is any chance the bat may have had contact with a person or pet DO NOT RELEASE THE BAT. Contact the Albany County Health Department at (518) 447-4620 to arrange to have the bat tested for rabies.

If a bat is found in the room of a sleeping person and the bat is released, the person will be advised to undergo rabies post-exposure treatment. Although in most instances bats do not have rabies, if the bat is released and not available for testing, it has to be assumed that it may have been rabid. Every year, many Albany County residents need to undergo rabies post-exposure treatment because they released a bat from their home instead of capturing it and having it tested.

You cannot tell if a bat has rabies by looking at it. Rabies can only be confirmed in a lab. But any bat that is active by day, or is unable to fly and is easily approached could very well have rabies.

During spring and summer, bats roost in attics, behind shutters and in other sheltered areas of homes and buildings. If you suspect bats are roosting in your house, watch for them leaving at dusk or entering before dawn.

To "batproof" your home, use polypropylene bird netting, fly screening, sheet metal, wood or various caulking compounds to close or cover openings that allow entry for bats to roost. House bats can pass through crevices as thin as a pencil. Before "batproofing" make sure there are no bats already in the roost.

The Health Department urges residents to not use chemicals or pesticides to kill bats because of the risk of exposure to humans and causes sick or dying bats to be grounded in the community, further increasing the chance of contact with people and pets.

For more information call the Albany County Department of Health at (518) 447-4620 or visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website at www.cdc.gov/rabies external website or the NYS Rabies Lab at www.wadsworth.org/rabies/ external website.

How to Safely Catch a Bat
View or download a video on the proper technique for safely capturing a bat found in your home. To download a video, right click on the link and select "Save Target As.."

Catch the Bat! - Low Quality (WMV, 2.2 MB)

Catch the Bat! - High Quality (WMV, 7.1 MB)

Catch the Bat! (MP4, 4.1 MB)