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June 16, 2011

Bats Often Carry Rabies -
Oswego County Health Department Warns of Rabies

OSWEGO - June is Rabies Awareness Month in New York State, and the staff of the Oswego County Health Department is working with the state Department of Health to raise public awareness about the dangers of rabies.

Rabies is a deadly disease caused by a virus that attacks the central nervous system. People usually get exposed to the rabies virus when an infected animal bites them. Exposure may also occur if saliva from a rabid animal enters an open cut or mucous membrane, such as the eyes, nose or mouth. Rabies is most often seen among wild animals like raccoons, bats, skunks and foxes; however, any mammal can be infected with rabies.

"People can be bitten by a bat and not know it," said Dr. Dennis Norfleet, director of public health for the Oswego County Health Department. "Most types of bats have very small teeth which may leave marks that disappear quickly. If a bat is found indoors and there is any chance it may have come in contact with a person or a pet, it's very important not to release it."

Dr. Norfleet added, "If you woke up because a bat landed on you while you were sleeping or if you awakened and found a bat in your room, you should try to safely capture the bat and have it tested. The same precautions should be used if you see a bat in a room with an unattended child or someone with a mental impairment."

Although any mammal can pose a potential threat for rabies, bats tend to pose a larger threat because it can be difficult to confirm if a person has had contact with a bat. Oswego County Health Department offers this advice:

  • Call the Oswego County Health Department anytime you see a bat in your home. Health Department staff are available by calling 315/349-3557 weekdays from 8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. or 315/341-0086, evenings and weekends.
  • Contain a bat in a room by closing all windows and closet doors.
  • Capture bats using gloves and a coffee can or similar container. Store the can in a freezer until you can submit it to the Oswego County Health Department for rabies testing.
  • Go to http://www.nyhealth.gov/diseases/communicable/zoonoses/rabies/ to view a video on how to safely catch a bat.

For more information about rabies or bats call the Oswego County Health Department at 315-349-3557.


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