University Health Service

brown bat

What should I do if I find a bat inside?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, you should seek medical advice within 24 hours and have the bat tested. Even in the absence of an obvious bite wound, you should seek medical advice within 24 hours for the following situations (you can consider these situations “potential exposures”):

  • If you awaken and find a bat in your room
  • If you see a bat:
    • in the room of an unattended child
    • in the room of a mentally impaired person
    • near an intoxicated person

When a bat is present and you cannot reasonably rule out having been bitten or had a potential exposure, the bat should be captured for rabies testing (see how below) and you should seek medical attention within 24 hours. Here’s how.

  • In a U-M residence hall: Leave immediately and close the door behind you. Do not attempt to capture or kill the bat. Call the Plant Operations Call Center at 734-647-2059 for pest removal. Indicate if someone was bitten by the bat or exposed to the bat, so the bat can be collected and tested for rabies. Students can contact UHS for medical advice (see contact information below).
  • In other local places such as a house or apartment, follow recommendations for collection and testing from the Washtenaw County Public Health Department. Students can contact UHS for medical advice (see contact information below).

If there is no indication that someone was bitten or potentially exposed, remove the bat by following guidelines from the Centers for Disase Control and Prevention.

Why are bats a concern?

  • Bat bites and even droplets of bat saliva may cause rabies in humans. 
  • Bats bites can be difficult to identify because they may not leave a mark.
  • In Michigan, rabies is found more frequently in bats than in other mammals. 
  • Rabid bats cause most rabies deaths in the US.
  • Note that you cannot get rabies from seeing a bat or touching bat guano (feces), blood or urine, or from touching a bat’s fur. Nonetheless, it is recommended never to handle bats.

Is treatment recommended?

Treatment is recommended if you were bitten by a bat or had a potential exposure. It is imperative that potentially exposed persons seek treatment promptly. When an individual begins to exhibit signs of disease, rabies is nearly 100% fatal.

What is the treatment?

Treatment consists of a series of injections of rabies vaccine over two weeks. Also, if you have never received a preventive vaccine, you would receive several shots of rabies immune globulin at your initial visit to provide immediate protection.

Once you start the series of injections, it’s important to complete the series and follow your health care provider’s advice. If you later learn through testing that the bat did not have rabies, your health care provider will advise you to either stop or complete the series, depending on risk.

Why should I take rabies treatment if I am not sure I was exposed?

Rabies is a fatal disease, so the consequences for not getting treatment may be very serious.

How are bats beneficial?

Bats are a key part of a healthy ecosystem. Despite the myths that abound about bats, they are very beneficial creatures. They prey on night-flying insects such as mosquitoes, they help disperse seeds and they pollinate plants. Unfortunately, many species are now endangered.

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