All animals serve an important role within their given ecosystems. Bats are important because they make sure to keep insect levels low and manageable. Although they are important, they can still be dangerous. There are numerous animals that transmit rabies, like foxes, raccoons, and skunks, but bats are the most common way that it is contracted by people.
What is rabies?
Rabies is an infection that is present in the saliva of infected animals and is transmitted through bites and sometimes scratches. If immediate medical attention is not sought out, it has a mortality rate of 99.9%. It can be totally prevented through proper education and knowledge, so people know what their risk factors are and what to do if they think they may have been exposed to the disease.
In nature, bats normally roost in caves and trees and their proximity to people is limited and transmission possibilities are low. The problem arises when bats decide to make their homes in attics, garages, and other places that will put them in close quarters with people.
It is not possible to tell by looking at a bat if it has rabies. All bat species have different behaviors and do different things. They can make loud screeching noises and hisses when they feel threatened. Some are able to take to flight from the ground and others are not. The best course of action for people is to assume that all bats have rabies and to handle every interaction with them as if it may have resulted in a rabies exposure.
What to do if exposure is a possibility
Bats have small teeth and it is possible that a bite occurred, and the person was not even aware. If a bat is found in a room with someone who was asleep or just not aware that it was there, they should seek medical attention to make sure that they were not infected.
If a bite wound is noticed, the wound should be thoroughly washed and disinfected and then the person needs to seek immediate medical attention. If a person believes that they could have been exposed, they should seek medical attention just to be safe.
How will a doctor treat rabies?
As long as medical attention is sought out quickly, there are effective treatments that can be administered. A doctor will first give the person a vaccine in the upper arm area of the body. This shot is not painful, and the person will be able to go on home afterward. The doctor will also give them a rabies immune globulin near the bite or wound site (if it is known) and then in an area that is distant from the site of the vaccine.
Like with any disease or infection, the most important thing that a person can do is arm themselves with the knowledge they need. People must take an active role in learning about the disease and what to do if they believe that have been exposed to it. It is a dangerous disease, but it can be prevented and avoided.