Brown bats are the most common culprits for biting humans with their extremely sharp teeth. These bites seldom look like real bites due to the small size of the teeth; bat teeth often puncture the skin in a pin prick manner. It is a rare occurrence that happens only when the bat is sick or feels trapped.
Bat bites must be taken very seriously indeed as they are carriers of the deadly rabies virus; infected bats transmit this virus to humans and pets through bites or contact with their droppings. It is common for sick bats found on the ground to bite children that try to pick them up and such cases must be taken in to the doctor even though the injury does not look bad.
As such, it is advisable to cover up and wear thick gloves when dealing with bats. Larger bats like the solitary ones that live in caves can do more damage to their victim’s skin when they bite.
If you have been bitten or scratched by a rabid bat (or other mammal), a timely administration of the vaccine Post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) will protect you from infection.
Among rabies-prone wildlife, bats are the highest transmitters of human rabies acquired in domestic habitations. This is largely due to their small size and deceptively harmless look, which may lure people to handle them unwisely. Sick bats lying on the ground especially look pitiful, but will bite if touched or picked up. Any bat rescuing must be done with thick hand gloves and protective covering – or not at all!
What to do
- Wash the wound thoroughly with soap and water
- Apply pressure to stop blood flow if bleeding
- Get a doctor to treat you as soon as you can as the bat may be rabid. This can be determined by carrying out a test on the dead bat’s brain.
- If you have previously been vaccinated for rabies, doctors will inject the muscle around your wound two more times with the vaccine.
- If you have never been vaccinated for rabies, the doctor will administer the Human Rabies Immunoglobin antibody to the inside of your wound. You will also receive five shots of the vaccine into the muscle surrounding the bite wound.
- This treatment must be started as soon as possible after a bite to save the life of the victim, unless the bat tests negative.
- It is advisable to get vaccinated for rabies if bats are sighted close to where you live. Keep your domestic animals and pets vaccinated as well.
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