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Bat Rabies

The Rutherford Health Department would like to remind residents of the concerns that need to be taken into consideration when a bat is observed inside a habitable area of a home.

The most common source of human rabies in the USA is from bats. From 2003 to 2013, 24 cases of human rabies have been acquired in the United States or Puerto Rico, 17 of the 24 cases (71%) were associated with bats. Bat activity typically increases from May through September, resulting in a higher number of calls from the public concerning rabies transmission from bats to people.

Because bat bites may be less severe, heal rapidly and, therefore, be more difficult to find or recognize than bites inflicted by larger mammals, care needs to be exhibited when responding to bat calls inside a dwelling. Post exposure treatment for rabies may be required for a human who;

  • has had direct bare skin contact with a bat.

  • persons in the same room as a bat and who might be unaware that a bite occurred such as an unsupervised infant, a sleeping adult, an intoxicated or mentally disabled person.

The absence of an identifiable bite wound would not negate the decision to treat a person with the rabies post exposure treatment, as bat bite wounds are extremely small and may be virtually undetectable within hours.

Residents observing a bat in a habitable structure should be instructed to leave the bat alone until the Animal Control Officer and/or Police Department are notified. The Rutherford Health Department can be contacted weekdays for assistance at 201-460-3020 and after hours the Rutherford Police Department should be called at 201-939-6000. The State Health Department notes that “Residents should not open a window or otherwise release the bat from the home”. Bats captured inside a habitable dwelling should be held until a determination is made by local health officials as to whether rabies testing of the bat is necessary.

Two bats have tested positive for rabies in Rutherford in the past. One in March of 2017 and the other in October 2016. While the State Health Department reports that in 2020, 67 bats tested positive for rabies in New Jersey, it is very important to note that rabies is normally a fatal disease, if not treated promptly at the time of an exposure.