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Critical Information on Avoiding Rabies Exposure


Madison, Wisconsin - August 30, 2007 -- Since the beginning of the year Animal Services (formerly Animal Control) has received 79 calls just related to bats so it seems an opportune time to review some of the basics about rabies and the risks of rabies exposure from bats and other animals.   So far this year, five bats have tested positive for rabies in Dane County and statewide 20 cases of animal rabies have been diagnosed, 19 of which were rabid bats.
Rabies is a viral disease that affects the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord). The virus is spread from an infected mammal to a human, typically through bites. Although only a few human cases are reported each year in the U.S., the disease almost always proves fatal once symptoms do appear.    


When a bat gets in to our indoor spaces it creates an uncomfortable and scary situation. When this happens, you should do everything possible to avoid contact with the bat.   

Getting bitten or scratched by a bat is obviously a confirmed contact.  If you discover a bat in a bedroom after sleeping in that room, the safest approach is to assume that there was contact, even though you can't confirm it.  Following are some basic steps you should take after exposure.

If the bat is alive, try to contain it simply by leaving the room and making sure windows and doors are closed.  If the bat appears to be dead, the safest course is to leave it where it is.

Second:  Call Animal Services.
They will take the bat out of your house safely and have it tested to determine whether it has rabies or not.  Without the bat, the person bitten or otherwise exposed must undergo a series of rabies shots to avoid the possibility of contracting this fatal disease.   

Third:  If you think you may have been exposed, contact your physician immediately.

Another way you can help prevent the spread of rabies is to make sure that your pets are vaccinated against rabies.  With the vaccination, which is required by law, your pet will get a level of protection.  But even with the vaccination, if your pet is exposed to a potentially rabid animal, it will require veterinary attention. 

Animal Services is there to respond to any situation involving an animal presenting a threat to a human.  According to Patrick Comfert, Animal Services Leadworker for the Department of Public Health for Madison and Dane County, "a bat in your bedroom is definitely a legitimate reason to call Animal Services.  But if your house has a bat colony in the attic or wall, please call a commercial pest control service to eliminate the problem."

For more immediate service call the Police/Fire Dispatch number (608) 255-2345 and they will quickly convey the message to Animal Services.

For more information on rabies see:

For information on bats see:    

In an Associated Press story distributed today and published in the Wisconsin State Journal under the headline Miraculous Rabies Survivor Heads to College, -- the young woman who survived rabies infection without vaccination was quoted at the end of the article in response to the question of what she would do if she ever encounters a bat again in the wild as saying, "I'd pick it up. I would so pick it up."   Responding to this, Tommye Schneider, Director of Environmental Health at the Department of Public Health for Madison and Dane County stated, 
"Although it is understandable that many people have empathy for injured animals, the risk of being bitten by an injured bat is extremely high, raising the possibility of transmission of rabies. 
Only trained professionals should attempt to pick up injured bats and those professionals are avaible by calling Animal Services "   



  • Patrick Comfert, (608) 243-0309
  • Jeff Golden, (608) 243-0302