Bat Rabies Confirmed as Cause of Human Case
Albany, October 7, 1995 -- The federal Centers for Disease Control has confirmed through genetic testing that the strain of rabies virus that caused the death of a 13-year-old Connecticut girl is the same variant associated with silver haired bats, State Health Commissioner Barbara A. DeBuono M.D. announced today.
The Connecticut child was admitted to Westchester County Medical Center on September 25 with symptoms suggestive of rabies, and died at the hospital on October 3. Health officials from New York State, Connecticut and Westchester County have been working together to determine the source of the infection.
Commissioner DeBuono said that the silver haired bat rabies strain was also identified as the variant that caused the death of a 12-year-old Sullivan County girl in 1993.
"Bats rank third in the number of animal rabies cases in New York State, behind raccoons and skunks," Dr. DeBuono said. "It is therefore important for people to take steps to prevent bats from entering their homes."
The Health Department provides the following advice:
Bats can be kept out of homes by closing or covering openings that allow them entry. To batproof, use polypropylene bird netting, fly screening, sheet metal, wood or various caulking compounds, keeping in mind that bats can pass through crevices as thin as a pencil. Before batproofing, make sure there are no bats already in the roost. The best time to batproof is late fall through winter when bats are hibernating in caves, or at night when bats are away from the roost. All openings, except one or two major exits, may be closed in advance, and the last opening sealed while the animals are away.
If a bat gets into a home and has not touched any person or pet, it can be released to the outdoors. The bat should be confined to one room, with the lights turned on and the windows left open so it may escape. However, if a person or pet has been bitten or scratched by a bat, or if a bat has touched an open wound or mucous membranes such as the eyes, nose or mouth, the bat should be captured and tested for rabies. Bats should also be captured if they are discovered inside a house where people have been sleeping, unless a direct contact can be ruled out. Gloves should be worn to avoid direct exposure to the animal.
Should it be necessary to capture a bat, wait for it to land and cover it with a coffee can or similar container. Slide a piece of cardboard under the can and secure it, using tape or some other method. If the bat cannot be caught, and direct contact cannot be ruled out, post-exposure treatment should be considered.