Treatment for Exposure to Bats

If a person is bitten or scratched by a bat, or there is any suspicion that bat saliva or nervous tissue has contaminated an open wound or mucous membrane, wash the affected area thoroughly with soap and water, capture the bat without damaging the head, and seek immediate medical attention. The incident should be reported promptly to local health authorities in order to arrange rabies testing of the bat.

If the bat is captured and immediate transportation to the testing laboratory is possible, and if immediate testing can be arranged, postexposure treatment may be delayed several hours until the test results are known. Postexposure prophylaxis must be administered immediately, however, if the bat cannot be captured, if prompt transportation to the laboratory is not possible, if the specimen is not suitable for reliable diagnosis, or if the test results prove positive for rabies.

The prophylaxis has little resemblance to that of many years ago. Today, it consists of one dose of rabies immune globulin (human origin) and one dose of rabies vaccine (human diploid cell) administered preferably on the day of exposure, followed by additional single doses of rabies vaccine on days 3, 7, 14, and 28 following the initial injection. This treatment is normally safe, relatively painless, and very effective.

The Centers for Disease Control recommends that if there has been human or pet contact, or if it is unknown if there was contact, the bat should be destroyed (do not crush the head) and the public health department consulted. The Centers for Disease Control also recommends that if the bat was in a room with a sleeping person then it should be captured, destroyed without crushing the head, and submitted for testing. Consult your physician for more information.

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