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Q: What animals may transmit rabies to humans?
Answer: Any animal that is infected with Rabies may transmit it to humans. In Arkansas, the most commonly infected animals are skunks and bats.
Rabies in raccoons is rare in Arkansas and has only been documented once. Arkansas does not have the raccoon variant, or type, of rabies, which is very common in all of the eastern states. But this does not mean a raccoon cannot get rabies from skunks or bats, and contact with raccoons should be avoided.
Opossums and rodents almost never have Rabies, and a bite does not require postexposure Rabies treatment unless the brain tests positive for Rabies virus. Questions about individual cases should be referred to the Zoonotic Disease Section for consultation (501-280-4136).
Q: What is the danger of capturing and keeping wild animals as pets?
Answer: Arkansas Game and Fish regulations prohibit taking some wild animals as pets. Skunks and bats are prohibited as pets if taken in the wild. Any animal taken from the wild and domesticated is dangerous, and the experience often ends in disaster for the animal or the adoptive family.
The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission has regulations applicable to the ownership of captive wildlife. More information is available at
Q: How often should I have my pet raccoon or skunk vaccinated?
Answer: There are no approved Rabies vaccines for wild animals except ferrets. Veterinarians may vaccinate wild animals but must state on the vaccination certificate that it is unknown whether or not the vaccine will be effective.
Q: What is the quarantine period that applies to wild animals?
Answer: There is no applicable quarantine period for animals other than dogs, cats, or ferrets. There are no studies which determine the length of time that other animals may be infected before they show symptoms or have Rabies virus in their saliva.
Bats and Rabies
Q: Do bats get rabies?
Answer: Yes. Bats are mammals and are susceptible to rabies, but most do not have the disease. You cannot tell if a bat has rabies just by looking at it; rabies can be confirmed only by having the animal tested in a laboratory. To minimize the risk for rabies, it is best never to handle any bat.
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Q: Why should I learn about bats and rabies?
Answer: Most of the recent human rabies cases in the United States have been caused by rabies viruses from bats. Awareness of the facts about bats and rabies can help people protect themselves, their families, and their pets. This information may also help clear up misunderstandings about bats.
When people think about bats, they often imagine things that are not true. Bats are not blind. They are neither rodents nor birds. They will not suck your blood -- and most bats do not have rabies. Bats play key roles in ecosystems around the globe, from rain forests to deserts, especially by eating insects, including agricultural pests. The best protection we can offer these unique mammals is to learn more about their habits and recognize the value of living safely with them.
Rabies in humans is rare in the USA. There are usually 1-2 human cases per year. The most common source of human rabies in the USA is from bats. For example, among the 19 naturally acquired cases of rabies in humans in the USA from 1997-2006, 17 were associated with bats. Among these, 14 patients had known encounters with bats. Four people awoke because a bat landed on them and one person awoke because a bat bit him (these events occurred within their primary residences). One person was reportedly bitten by a bat from outdoors while he was exiting from his residence. Six persons had a history of handling a bat while removing it from their primary residences. One person was bitten by a bat while releasing it outdoors after finding it on the floor inside a building. One person picked up and tried to care for a sick bat found on the ground outdoors. Three males ages 20, 29 and 64 had no reported encounters with bats but died of bat-associated rabies viruses.
Q: What do I do if I come in contact with a bat?
Answer: If you are bitten by a bat -- or if infectious material (such as saliva) from a bat gets into your eyes, nose, mouth, or a wound -- wash the affected area thoroughly and get medical attention immediately. Whenever possible, the bat should be captured and sent to a laboratory for rabies testing.
People usually know when they have been bitten by a bat. However, because bats have small teeth which may leave marks that are not easily seen, there are situations in which you should seek medical advice even in the absence of an obvious bite wound. For example, if you awaken and find a bat in your room, see a bat in the room of an unattended child, or see a bat near a mentally impaired or intoxicated person, seek medical advice and have the bat tested.
People cannot get rabies just from seeing a bat in an attic, in a cave, or at a distance. In addition, people cannot get rabies from having contact with bat guano (feces), blood, or urine, or from touching a bat on its fur (even though bats should never be handled!).
Q: What should I do if I find a bat in my home?
Answer: If you see a bat in your home and you are sure no human or pet exposure has occurred, confine the bat to a room by closing all doors and windows leading out of the room except those to the outside. The bat will probably leave soon. If not, it can be caught, as described below, and released outdoors away from people and pets.
However, if there is any question of exposure, leave the bat alone and call animal control or a wildlife conservation agency for assistance. If professional assistance is unavailable, use precautions to capture the bat safely, as described below.
What you will need:
- leather work gloves (put them on)
- small box or coffee can
- piece of cardboard
When the bat lands, approach it slowly and place a box or coffee can over it. Slide the cardboard under the container to trap the bat inside. Tape the cardboard to the container securely. Contact your health department or animal control authority to make arrangements for rabies testing.
More information is available about nuisance bats, bats in and around your home and nuisance bat handlers at: http://www.agfc.com/species/Pages/SpeciesNuisanceWildlifeResources.aspx
Q: How can I tell if a bat has rabies?
Answer: Rabies can be confirmed only in a laboratory. However, any bat that is active by day, is found in a place where bats are not usually seen (for example in rooms in your home or on the lawn), or is unable to fly, is far more likely than others to be rabid. Such bats are often the most easily approached. Therefore, it is best never to handle any bat.
Q: How do I protect my home against bat entry?
Answer: Bats should always be prevented from entering the home. If bats are found in a home, contact the Health Department or a wildlife conservation agency. Bats tend to be localized in chimneys, attics, and crevices throughout the upper extremity of the house. When protecting a home against bat entry, find and caulk any openings larger than a quarter-inch. Further information can be found on the Arkansas Game and Fish website:
Q: How do I capture bats safely?
Answer: Most bats that enter living areas do so accidentally. They can be caught in a butterfly net, a leather-gloved hand, or a coffee can slowly placed over them while a piece of cardboard is slid between the bat and wall. All bats found in the home should be considered for rabies testing.
Q: If vaccination is effective, why do people still die of rabies in the USA?
Answer: In some cases, persons who died of rabies knew they were bitten by a bat. However, they may not have been aware that bats can have rabies and transmit it through a bite, and so did not seek medical attention. In other cases, it appears possible that young children may not fully awaken due to the presence of a bat (or its bite) or may not report a bite to their parents. For example, one 4-year-old patient, who died of rabies, was still sleeping when her caregivers checked on her because they heard strange noises that were from a bat that was found on the floor of her bedroom. She was most likely bitten and did not fully awaken. This patient developed parasthesia (an abnormal sensation which may occur at the site of a rabies exposure) on her neck as she became sick with rabies a few weeks later. In another case, a 10-year-old child removed a bat from his bedroom without adult supervision and several months later developed parasthesia on his arm and one side of his head as he became sick with rabies.