Vermont Bats Should Be Tested For Rabies

Ruzanna Harutyunyan's picture

The Vermont Department of Health is reminding people to avoid contact with bats that may fly into homes during the summer as they hunt insects. The Health Department has fielded an increasing number of calls from people seeking guidance on the best way to free a bat, trap and release it, or capture the small mammals.

The bat should be captured and tested for rabies if found in a room with an unattended child, or where someone has been sleeping. Any bat that has had physical contact with a person should be tested as well.

When the bat lands, approach it slowly while wearing gloves 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 and contact the Vermont Rabies Hotline (1-800-472-2437) for guidance. Game wardens, animal control officers, nuisance trappers, town health officers, and others can help capture bats.


Each year the Health Department tests approximately 100 bats for rabies and one or two are routinely identified as positive, including two so far in 2008. There has never been a human case of rabies reported to the Vermont Department of Health.

“People should avoid exposure to bats and learn to appreciate them at a distance,” said Dr. Robert Johnson, state public health veterinarian for the Vermont Department of Health. “Bats are a good indicator of the health of the ecosystem and they are important, just as bees are. Normally they are not aggressive. They can be infected with rabies even if they don’t appear sick.”

Rabies is a fatal viral disease found mainly in wildlife (especially raccoons, foxes, bats and skunks), but can infect domestic animals and people. The virus can be contracted through the bite of an infected animal.

If a person is exposed, contact your doctor and follow his or her instructions. Wash the bite wound thoroughly with soap and warm water. Always keep your pets’ rabies vaccinations up to date in case they have contact with a rabid bat or other animal.