A host of pests may be trying to enter homes, now that the weather has turned colder across Iowa. That includes bats, which can be dangerous, especially if they carry rabies.

Ann Garvey, with the Iowa Department of Public Health, says last year 17 rabid bats were reported to state health officials. “So far this year, we’ve had six (bats) test positive from different areas of the state,” Garvey says.

There have been no human rabies cases. Bat bites can be visibly undetectable, so any potential exposure or contact with a bat means the bat should be captured and tested for rabies. Garvey suggests the easiest way to catch a bat is to wait until it lands on a flat surface. “Take a hard-sided container, like a coffee can, and place it over the bat on the floor or wall. Then, slide a piece of cardboard or something hard underneath it and tape it to the container,” Garvey says.

If a bat is found in your home and you know you were not “exposed” to it, Garvey says you can simply open a door or windows and the bat should eventually find its way out. Anyone who may’ve been bitten by a bat is advised to wash the exposed area with soap and water, and seek medical attention.

Garvey says treatment of rabies is safer and less painful today than it was years ago. “The rabies series is now one dose of Rabies Immune Globulin and then four or five doses of vaccine, depending on whether you have any other health conditions,” Garvey says. “For adults, that vaccine is given in the arm, just like a flu shot. It’s no longer the large series of shots in the stomach.”