Stories tagged rabies deaths

Oct
26
2007

Bat concerns: The death of a Minnesota man from rabies this fall raises new concerns over the interactions between humans and bats.
Bat concerns: The death of a Minnesota man from rabies this fall raises new concerns over the interactions between humans and bats.Courtesy U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
It was a Minnesota headline this week that made the nation-wide news…and just in time for Halloween.

A Minnesota man died last week from rabies after being bitten by a bat. It’s led to a lot of discussions about bats, rabies and how they all impact us. Last night during a training session here at the museum, the museum’s resident biologist made a sideline discussion on the topic, pointing out that many more bats than we’d ever imagine have rabies and that the only bats that are studied concerning rabies are those that have encounters with humans.

So let’s set the record straight on bats, rabies and how concerned we need to be on these issues. Here’s information direct from the Center for Disease Control.

In Minnesota, the most common animals to be carrying rabies are bats, skunks and fox. But rabies can be carried by a variety of mammals, including raccoons, coyotes and even dogs. Rabies is a viral disease that impacts our body’s central nervous system. Tens of thousands of people each year are treated for the condition, and usually a few die, primarily for not seeking treatment immediately after having been bitten by a rabid animal.

Now to the bat question. Some common misconceptions about bats: they’re blind, they want to suck your blood and they eat lots of mosquitoes. Bats do have low vision and use a radar-like system to sense objects, but they also can see. Bats are predators, but they prefer insects. But not insects as small as mosquitoes. They prefer bigger bugs like beetles. Think about, there’s not too much meat to munch on from a mosquito.

How do you know if a bat has rabies? The only way to find out is to have it tested in a laboratory. There are some clues that can help you be wary of a rabid bat: if it’s flying during the day, is found in an area you normally don’t find bats (including inside buildings) or is unable to fly. If it’s easy to approach, and therefore handle, there’s a stronger possibility that the bat is rabid.

What do you do if you’re bitten by a bat? After screaming and cursing you should wash the affected area immediately and get prompt medical attention. Bats do have extremely small teeth that may not leave a mark. It’s still best to have the area checked out by medical personnel even if it looks like your skin has not been punctured.

Some other misconceptions: people can’t get rabies from bat guano (feces), blood or urine. And you can’t get rabies from simply touching a bat.