There’s a rumor floating around that it’s illegal to kill a bat you find in your house. That is -not- true. In fact, if you discover a bat in your house, you may have to kill it so it can be tested for rabies. In recent weeks, Iowa public health veterinarian Dr. Ann Garvey says there’s been an uptick in reports of rabid bats in the state.
“This is when bats typically increase their migration patterns and there’s an increase in mobility in traveling of these young bat pups,” Dr. Garvey says. “Both of those factors account for why we have more interaction in the August-September timeframe.” She says it’s extremely rare for a human to get rabies from a bat — or any other rabid creature.
“Out last human rabies case in Iowa occurred in 2002 but prior to that, we hadn’t had a case since 1951,” Garvey says. “About 400 people in our state go through the rabies shot series (each year) because of a potential exposure and each year, our department consults on somewhere around 600 cases.”
It’s always better to err on the side of caution, she says, as rabies is almost 100% fatal. “If you have been in contact with a bat and could’ve been bitten or if you wake up to a bat in the room you’re sleeping in or find a bat in the same room as an unattended child, we would consider this a potential exposure,” Garvey says.
“If you’re able to capture the bat for testing, that’s always best. If that’s not possible, you should consult your health care provider as you may need rabies shots.” So far this year, 11 cases of rabid bats were reported in Iowa and there have been no human cases.
The most common rabies carriers in Iowa are bats and skunks, though many different species of animals can be infected.