Because of a steady increase in rabies cases involving bats, the Allegheny County Health Department is urging local residents to report all bat encounters, even if they’re not sure they’ve been bitten or otherwise exposed to the animal’s saliva.
Bat bites can be so tiny they may leave no marks visible to the naked eye and so painless they may not even be felt by a victim. That’s why it’s important to call the Health Department if anyone comes in contact with a bat. Bat encounters should be reported immediately by calling 412-687-ACHD (2243).
The Health Department will evaluate the risk and test the bat, if available, for rabies to determine if treatment with anti-rabies vaccine is recommended. The vaccine is highly effective and prevents rabies when given shortly after exposure.
The latest case involves a plumber who was bitten on the arm by a rabid bat at a worksite in Bethel Park. The man was given anti-rabies vaccine to prevent the fatal disease from developing.
If anyone finds a bat and are unsure whether they’ve been exposed, they should wear a pair of heavy-duty gloves and capture the bat by placing a container such as a large bowl over it and sliding a piece of cardboard underneath to trap the bat inside. Cover the container with a lid or cap.
Call the local animal control officer to capture the bat and euthanize it for testing, if they are unable to do so themselves.
Bats can fit through openings as small as three-eighths of an inch, so seal all openings that might give bats access to the house or cover them with a fine-meshed screen.
Thirteen rabid animals have been reported in the county so far this year – six raccoons, six bats and one cat. Six people have been treated with anti-rabies vaccine and none have contracted the disease.