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Residents Urged to Avoid Contact With Bats

By Mirna Chamorro

August 05, 2021

Sanford, FL - The Florida Department of Health in Seminole County (DOH-Seminole) wants to remind the public to avoid contact with any bats to protect themselves from the risk of being exposed to rabies after receiving recent reports of several residents exposed to bats in their homes. Bites from bats may be very small and not easily recognized. If you wake up because a bat landed on you while you were sleeping or if you awakened and found a bat in your room, you should seek medical attention immediately and contact your local animal control agency. The same precautions should be used if you see a bat in a room with an unattended child or see a bat near a person with a mental impairment or under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Bats that are safely captured may be tested for rabies.

“Rabies is a fatal but preventable viral disease. It is important not to handle wild animals including bats. It is important to seek medical attention immediately if you or someone you know has been in contact with a bat,” said Donna Walsh, health officer for the Florida Department of Health in Seminole County.

In Florida, raccoons, bats and foxes are the animals most frequently diagnosed with rabies. Other animals that are at high risk for rabies include skunks, otters, coyotes, bobcats, and stray or unvaccinated cats, dogs and ferrets.

Rabies is a disease of the nervous system that can cause paralysis and is fatal to warm blooded animals and humans. The virus is spread through exposure to the saliva and nervous tissue from a rabid animal through a bite, scratch, or contact with mucous membranes such as the eyes, nose, or mouth. DOH-Seminole works with Seminole County Animal Services (SCAS) and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) to respond to animal bites, test animals for rabies through the Florida Department of Health Bureau of Public Health Laboratories, and quarantine animals as necessary. DOH-Seminole also provides rabies vaccinations to victims of animal bites situations that are deemed high-risk for rabies. Rabies vaccines are the only known effective treatment for rabies prevention in humans.

The following are steps you can take to protect yourself and your family against rabies exposure with bats:

  • Teach children never to handle unfamiliar animals, wild, stray, or owned, even if they appear friendly. "Love your own, leave other animals alone" is a good principle for children to learn.
  • Wash any wound from an animal thoroughly with soap and water and seek medical attention immediately.
  • Have all dead, sick, or easily captured bats tested for rabies if exposure to people or pets occurs.
  • Prevent bats from entering living quarters or occupied spaces in homes, churches, schools, and other similar areas where they might contact people and pets.
Carefully examine your home for holes that might allow bats entry into your living quarters. Caulk any openings larger than a quarter-inch by a half-inch. To learn more on how to “bat proof” your home, go to the FWC website or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's website.

About the Florida Department of Health

The department, nationally accredited by the Public Health Accreditation Board, works to protect, promote and improve the health of all people in Florida through integrated state, county and community efforts.

Follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter at @HealthyFla. For more information about the Florida Department of Health please visit www.FloridaHealth.gov.