As the weather grows colder, many animals look for warmer places to nest through the winter months. Bats are no exception. They may take up residence in your attic, entering through tiny crevices in the eaves or vents.
Having bats in your home is more than just a nuisance; it is a danger to your health. The average bat species carries 1.79 zoonotic viruses — those which are transmissible to humans — not to mention various types of infectious bacteria. Read on for a more in-depth look at some of the most common and concerning diseases transmitted by bats.
Rabies is a fatal disease that affects almost all mammals, including bats. You may contract rabies if you are bitten by a bat carrying the virus. Although only one or two people die from rabies in the average year in the United States, most human rabies cases occur after contact with an infected bat. An infected bat could also bite and infect your cat or dog, particularly if your cat or dog has not been properly vaccinated.
If you are ever bitten by a bat, make sure you seek medical attention right away. Your doctor will likely vaccinate you for rabies to ensure you do not contract the virus. Rabies is not spread through feces, urine, or non-bite contact, so you don’t need to get vaccinated simply because you have had bats in your home.
Histoplasmosis is a fungal infection that causes symptoms like fever, chills, a dry cough, chest tightness, and muscle aches. Some cases are rather mild, and patients assume they have a cold or allergies. Other cases are life-threatening and require hospitalization.
The fungi that cause histoplasmosis are often present in bat droppings. The fungi release spores, which cause infection when inhaled. Unlike rabies, which is only a concern if you come into direct contact with bats, histoplasmosis is a concern even if you do not touch or interact with the bats in your home. To prevent infection, hire professionals to clean up any area where bats have been living, or, if you attempt cleanup yourself, wear a respirator mask.
Leptospirosis is a bacterial infection often carried by animals like rats, skunks, foxes, and bats. The infectious bacteria are passed through the bats’ urine and feces. If you touch a surface contaminated by bat urine or feces and then touch your eyes, nose, mouth, or an open wound, you may become infected.
Leptospirosis causes fever, diarrhea, coughing, irritated eyes, and a rash. In serious cases, patients may develop serious fatigue, an irregular heartbeat, loss of appetite, or meningitis. Most people recover with treatment, but death from leptospirosis is a real possibility. If you have bats in your home, make sure you practice impeccable sanitation until you are rid of them.
SARS stands for severe acute respiratory syndrome. About a decade ago, a SARS outbreak spread throughout the world, causing numerous fatalities. New research suggests that bats may be a carrier of the virus that causes SARS. Researchers are not sure how the disease is spread, so avoiding bats and the excrement as completely as possible is a smart move.
Symptoms of SARS usually appear three to five days after being exposed to the virus. They include dry coughing, shortness of breath, aches, and fever. Some people develop pneumonia, heart failure, or liver failure. Although there have been no reported cases of SARS in the U.S. since 2004, you never know when the next outbreak will begin — so you are best off being careful around bats.
Have you noticed bat droppings in your attic or crawlspace? Maybe you’ve seen rub marks around crevices in your home’s exterior, or perhaps you’ve seen or heard actual bats in or around your home. Contact PermaTreat Pest and Termite Control sooner rather than later. Bats are a threat to your health, but we can get rid of them and help you take steps to keep them away.