TOMPKINS COUNTY, N.Y.—The Tompkins County Health Department (TCHD) is urging residents to be aware of the potentially rabid wildlife, and encourages individuals to avoid and be aware of bats and other vector species.

Each year, a small number of confirmed rabid bats are found in the county, and as the weather warms, bats become more active, which increases the activity levels of the species. Attics and craw spaces heat up, and bats seek cooler locations on lower floors of homes.

TCHD also states that bites from bats may not be clearly apparent, like in situations where a bat is found in a room with a sleeping person or in the presence of an unattended child or person with a sensory impairment.

If a bat lands on a person, it should be captured and submitted tor testing. Bats that have contact with unvaccinated pets present a concern, as do pets with lapsed rabies vaccinations.

If a bat is found in a public area, near a pet, child or sleeping person or person with a sensory impairment, capture the bat and contact the health department.

The TCHD recommends the following steps to safely capture a bat. Additionally, this video from the New York State Department of Health demonstrates proper technique.

  • Close a room’s windows and doors and turn on the lights, then wait for the bat to land.
  • With heavy gloves on, cover the bat with a pail, coffee can or similar container.
  • If you see a bat outdoors, prevent further contact with people and pets by covering it with a container.
  • Immediately call the TCHD at (607)274-6688 to determine whether or not testing is necessary. Environmental Health staff are available after hours to provide guidance.
  • If the bat can’t be captured, contact the health department to determine what post-rabies exposure treatment is needed.

A statement from the health department states that “Rabies is normally transmitted by the bite of a wild or domestic rabid mammal. The incubation period for rabies is generally one to three months and orphaned wildlife can appear healthy during that time while potentially shedding the virus.”

Exposure can also occur if a rabid animal’s saliva enters the body through a mucous membrane or wounds. Handling pets or objects potentially contaminated with a rabid animal’s saliva is only to be done while wearing protective gloves, and hands should be washed immediately following any contact.

Additional information on rabies can be found here.

Zoë Freer-Hessler

Zoë Freer-Hessler is a general assignment reporter for the Ithaca Voice. She has covered a wide range of topics since joining the news organization in November 2021. She can be reached at zhessler@ithacavoice.com...