People Advised Not to Release Bats Found in the Home

June 7, 2024

The Oswego County Health Department continues its education campaign about the dangers of rabies by reminding residents not to release any bat caught inside the home.

“People usually get exposed to rabies when an infected animal bites them,” said Oswego County Director of Environmental Health Katelyn Parkhurst. “Exposure can also occur if saliva from a rabid animal enters an open cut or mucous membrane, such as the eyes, nose or mouth.

The health department’s Environmental Division reported five animals have tested positive for rabies so far this year, four raccoons and one bat, and nine people have been treated for possible exposure.

“Bats can carry rabies, and people may not realize they have been bitten by it,” Parkhurst continued. “They have very small teeth, leaving marks that may disappear quickly. So, if you find a bat indoors and there is any chance it may have come in contact with a person or a pet, it is essential that you don’t release it. Instead, try to safely capture the bat and have it tested.”

According to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), bats are the most reported animals to have rabies in the United States. Possible signs that a bat may have rabies include being active during the day, being found inside unusual places, and being easily approachable or unable to fly.

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. Those who wake up in a room where a bat is should assume they may have been exposed to rabies and take the necessary precautions. The same precautions should be used if a bat is found in a room with an unattended child or someone with a mental impairment.

The 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 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.

For instructions on how to capture a bat, watch the New York State Department of Health video, “Catch a Bat Safely,” at https://www.health.ny.gov/diseases/communicable/zoonoses/rabies/.

Rabies is most often seen among wild animals like bats, raccoons, skunks and foxes, but any mammal can be infected with this deadly disease.

“It’s also important to take preventative measures to protect your pets from potential exposure to rabies,” said Oswego County Associate Public Health Sanitarian Chris Williams. “Keeping your pets up to date on vaccinations is the best way to protect them, yourself and your family against the virus.”

Every year, the Oswego County Health Department schedules several rabies vaccination clinics for pets. Appointments are required and can be made by calling 315-349-3564 weekdays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The next rabies clinic is scheduled for Wednesday, June 12 from 6 to 8 p.m. at the West Monroe Town Highway Garage, located at 46 Co. Rte. 11.

For more information, including the full clinic schedule, go to https://health.oswegocounty.com/programs/environmental1/rabies_program2.php.

For more information about rabies or bats call the Oswego County Health Department at 315-349-3557. Go to https://www.health.ny.gov/diseases/communicable/zoonoses/rabies/ for more information about rabies including a video on how to safely catch a bat.