A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

It’s bat season so be aware — small number carry rabies which can be fatal to both people and pets

By Tom Latek
Kentucky Today

Public health officials in Kentucky say we are now in bat season and remind everyone that each year a small number of bats test positive for rabies, which can be fatal to both people and pets.

According to the Kentucky Department for Public Health, in 2017 there were five cases involving rabid bats statewide. In 2018, that number jumped to 13. In 2019, 12 confirmed cases were reported. There were 10 in 2020, 11 in 2021, and 7 in 2022. So far this year, the number stands at 4.

The Rafinesque’s Big-Eared Bat is a species found in Kentucky, (KY Dept. Fish and Wildlife Resources Photo)

Louisville Metro Health and Wellness offers these tips to stay safe:

• Admire bats from a distance in their natural habitat. Do not attempt to touch or feed them.
• Ensure your pets are up to date on their rabies vaccination.
• If you are bitten by a bat, wash the bite area with soap and water and contact a health care provider immediately.
• If you find a bat, report it to your local health department.

Bats play an essential role in our ecosystem by eating insects and pollinating plants. However, every year bats test positive for rabies, a viral disease that is almost always fatal if left untreated.

Rabies can spread to people and pets if they are bitten or scratched by an infected animal. In the United States, rabies is mostly found in wild animals including bats, skunks, racoons and foxes. Bats are the leading cause of rabies in the U.S. In Kentucky, bats, bovine, skunks and dogs were the common hosts of rabies last year.

The virus can be prevented by vaccinating pets, avoiding wildlife and seeking medical care immediately for potential exposure.

If you encounter a bat in your home:
• If possible, close the door to isolate the bat in the room. 
• Contact your doctor and local health department immediately. The health department will arrange for the bat to be collected and tested for rabies. 
• If you do not know how the bat got into your home, you will also need to contact a bat remediation specialist to determine if bats are living in your home.

Click here to see the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources’ list of remediation specialists by county.

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