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Health Officials: Don't Be Blind To The Potential Dangers Of Bats

Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism

If the experience of getting a bat stuck in your house or office isn’t unpleasant enough, Kansas health officials say it also means you should go get checked for rabies.

Health officials say they have been receiving an increase in the number of reports of bats getting stuck in people’s homes. That’s likely because July and August are months when bats become more active. Beyond being a nuisance, that can also pose a health risk.

Bats can carry rabies, and while only 3 percent of the bats tested in Kansas during the last 5 years had rabies, health officials treat all bats as if they’re rabid.

“With bats, we’re a little more cautious because their mouths are so small that the bite marks from a bat might not be so apparent,” epidemiologist Chelsea Raybern said.

The rabies virus is fatal in humans, but infection can be prevented by a physician if treated quickly.

Health officials recommend that If someone has had any contact with a bat, or a bat is found in a room where someone is sleeping or where a young child was unattended, they should go see their doctor.

They also recommend trapping the bat and turning it over to the local health department for testing.

“We want people to be aware of bats, but not afraid of them,” said Samantha Pounds, an ecologist with the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism.

There are 15 different species of bats in Kansas. They play a vital role in the Kansas ecosystem by consuming millions of insects each year.

There hasn’t been a human case of rabies in Kansas since 1968.

Brian Grimmett, based at KMUW in Wichita, is a reporter focusing on the environment and energy for the Kansas News Service, a collaboration of KMUW, Kansas Public Radio, KCUR and High Plains Public Radio covering health, education and politics. Follow him on Twitter @briangrimmett.

Kansas News Service stories and photos may be republished at no cost with proper attribution and a link back to the original post.

Copyright 2018 KMUW | NPR for Wichita

Brian Grimmett comes to KMUW after taking a year break from journalism, but he’s excited to jump back in to the fray. Previously, Brian spent almost five years working at KUER 90.1 FM in Salt Lake City. He worked his way up, starting as an intern and sticking around long enough until they relented and gave him a full-time job. At KUER, Brian covered a wide range of topics, but mainly focused on covering the Utah state legislature.