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Bat Rabies

Like other mammals, bats may have rabies. There are eight species of bats in Ontario, each of which has its own strain of rabies, but the more common species of bats are big brown bat, little brown bat and the silver-haired bat.

Bats cannot be vaccinated using baits, as has been done for foxes and raccoons, as they are insect-eaters and will not consume vaccine baits. International research is being conducted on vaccination methods for bats.

Recognizing Bat Rabies

Rabid bats often lose their ability to fly, or do not fly well. If a bat is wandering around in the daylight, acting strangely or crawling around on the ground, it may be rabid. Stay away.

Preventing Bat Rabies

Bats are an important part of our ecosystem and help reduce the insect population. Warn children to stay away from all wild animals, including bats. Other things you can do to prevent bat rabies:

  • bat-proof your home. If bats are found in your home, seek advice from an animal control or wildlife conservation authority

  • ensure your pet's vaccination is up-to-date as bats can transmit rabies to domestic pets

  • never handle bats or keep bats as a pet

  • seek medical advice if you receive a bite or scratch from a bat. The bat should be considered rabid unless captured and proven otherwise.

Direct Contact with a Bat

If you are bitten by a bat or if saliva from a bat gets into your eyes, nose, mouth or a wound, immediately wash the affected area with soap and water, seek medical attention immediately, and notify the local health unit.

If you awaken and find a bat in your room and there is no history of bat-human contact, rabies vaccine or post-exposure prophylaxis is not recommended. Post-exposure prophylaxis can be considered for people who were in the same room as a bat and are unable to say whether direct contact occurred (e.g. a sleeping person awakens to find a bat in the room or an adult witnesses a bat in the room with a previously unattended child, mentally challenged person or intoxicated person) and rabies cannot be ruled out by testing the bat.

Direct bat contact may have occurred to people waking up crying or upset while the bat was in the room or there is an obvious bit or scratch mark. The bat in question should be safely collected by an adult, if possible, and submitted for testing.

Who to Call if You Come In Contact with an Animal Suspected of Having Rabies

Rabies post-exposure prophylaxis is recommended for all people with bite, scratch, or mucous membrane exposure to a bat unless the bat is available for testing and is negative for evidence of rabies. Vaccination should be discontinued if tests of the animal are negative for rabies infection.