Community Health

Bats and Rabies Exposure

Bats are a key part of a healthy ecosystem and despite the myths, they are very beneficial creatures. They prey on night-flying insects, help disperse seeds and pollinate plants. But also, bats carry rabies and are a significant source of potential rabies exposure for humans in Michigan and across the United States.

If you find a bat inside, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) you should seek medical attention within 24 hours and have the bat collected and tested. Bats have very small teeth and a bite from a bat may not be felt. Even in the absence of an obvious bite wound, an exposure would include a bat found:

  • In the room of a sleeping person
  • In the room of a child
  • In the room of a mentally or physically impaired person
  • In the room of an intoxicated person

Here are the procedures to follow if you find a bat:

  • In a UM Residence Hall – Leave immediately and close the door behind you. Do Not attempt to capture or kill the bat. Call FIXIT at (734) 647-2059 to have the bat collected for rabies testing. If it is suspected there was an exposure, seek medical attention immediately at University Health Services.
  • In a UM work area – Leave immediately and close the door behind you. Do Not attempt to capture or kill the bat. Call POCC at (734) 647-2059 to have the bat collected for rabies testing. If it is suspected there was an exposure, seek medical attention immediately either at UM Occupational Health Services (complete the Work Connections Injury & Illness Form) or your primary care physician.
  • In other areas such as an apartment or home – Follow the recommendations for collections and testing from the Washtenaw County Public Health Department or your local Health Department.
  • If there is no indication someone was bitten or potentially exposed, remove the bat by following the guidelines from the Organization for Bat Conservation.

Why are bats a concern?

  • Bat bites and even droplets of bat saliva may cause rabies in humans.
  • Bat bites can be difficult to identify because they may not leave a mark.
  • In Michigan, rabies is found more frequently in bats than in other mammals.
  • Rabid bats cause most rabies deaths in the U.S.