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Rabies and Bats

Filed under: Illinois Dept.of public health
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What Illinois Department of Public Health has to say about bats and rabies:

What bats are protected in Illinois?

All Illinois bats are protected under the Wildlife Code (520 ILCS 5/1.1). Bats may not be shot, trapped, transported, or held in confinement except when a bat is found in an area where they may have contact with humans or domestic pets.

How can bats affect my health?

Bats can affect human health in multiple ways, including spreading rabies and histoplasmosis. Rabies is a viral disease causing encephalitis (brain inflammation) in humans and animals. People are usually exposed to the rabies virus when an infected animal, such as a bat, bites them. Exposure may occur if the animal's saliva enters an open cut or mucous membrane (nose, mouth, eyes). The presence of a bat in a home, or any contact with a bat, represents a possible hazard for rabies and should be reported to your city or county health department so that the circumstances can be evaluated. The last human case of rabies in Illinois was reported in 1954. See our Rabies Fact Sheet for more information.

Histoplasmosis is an infection caused by the fungus, Histoplasma capsulatum. The majority of people infected have no symptoms. When symptoms occur, they vary widely, depending on the form of disease. This fungus is most commonly found in bat droppings, and in soil enriched by bird or bat droppings. In people, this uncommon disease affects the lungs, and may occasionally invade other parts of the body. Anyone can get histoplasmosis, but the most severe cases are generally seen in immunosuppressed individuals. See our Histoplasmosis Fact Sheet for more information.

Of less concern are parasites associated with bats. Fleas, lice, mites, and bat bugs can infest bats. Some may transmit diseases to humans. If the host animals are killed or leave their roosts, the parasites look for alternate hosts and may wander into the living spaces of structures. They may bite people and domestic animals, but most parasites cannot survive away from their preferred hosts.

What do I do if I had contact with a bat?

If you had physical contact with a bat, the affected area should be washed thoroughly with soap and water. If possible, the bat should be captured and tested for rabies. Your city or county health department, animal control office, or veterinarian can assist you with capturing and submitting the bat to a laboratory for rabies testing. If the bat tests positive for rabies and your contact could have resulted in transmission of the virus, it will be recommended you receive rabies prophylaxis vaccination. If the bat tests negative for rabies, no further action is required. If the bat cannot be captured, the city or county local health department will evaluate the exposure and determine if rabies prophylaxis is recommended. Looking to know more.


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