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Department of Health News

You May Not Realize That You've Been Bitten!

Did you know that bats are the most common source of human rabies in the United States? Buncombe County Health and Human Services reminds us that bats found indoors should be contained and tested.

Many exposed people are not aware of the exposure or don’t take it seriously. Bats have tiny, sharp teeth that cause limited injury – a person who has been bitten may not even realize it. Your best protection is to isolate and contain the bat and notify city (259-5872) or county (250-6670) Animal Control that you have a bat that needs to be tested. Contact a Disease Control nurse or your doctor to assess your bat exposure and possible need for rabies treatment.

Buncombe County Disease Control has worked with several people who didn't know what to do when they found a bat inside the house. In these cases, residents released the bats outdoors before authorities were notified, leaving no way to test the bats for Rabies and subsequently having to receive the rabies treatment.

Here's how to handle bat situations and possible exposure to Rabies. Simple actions can make a big difference:

  • If you awaken to find a bat in your room, tent or cabin, do not release it outdoors. Instead, safely confine the bat to the room or tent, be sure all people and pets leave the space and contact local animal control to have it captured and tested for rabies.
  • If you know you've been bitten, thoroughly wash the wound with soap and water before seeing a doctor.
  • Never handle a bat with your bare hands. 
  • If any person has been potentially exposed to a bat, the bat should be submitted for testing without delay. If the bat isn't available OR if it isn't tested and found to be negative within 48 hours of the exposure, the person must start rabies post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP).
  • Take the time to determine if there is a bat infestation in the building, even if only one bat is found. This can be done by contacting the Wildlife Damage Control Agent and having them look for signs of a bat infestation such as bats flying out of building at dusk, squeaking or scratching behind walls, stains or odor outside or inside of the building.

If you find a bat indoors please call Buncombe County Animal Control at 250-6670 or Asheville Animal Services (if you live within city limits) at 259-5872. 

If you have questions about a bat exposure or whether you should get rabies treatment, call Disease Control at 250-5109.