October 31, 2005
Eileen Shields, Public Information Officer, 415/554-2507
Bats in Your Belfry or Bedroom Can Be Scary Business
San Francisco, CA—San Francisco Department of Public Health and Animal
Care and Control are offering up a few tricks and treats on Halloween to
alert the public about the dangers of rabid bats. Bats may carry rabies,
a disease that is almost always fatal to humans. Although dogs remain
the most common source of rabies worldwide, bats are the most likely
carriers of the disease in California and especially in San Francisco.
The second most likely animal to carry rabies in California are skunks.
”San Francisco has had five rabid bats within the past two years,” said
Dr. Susan Fernyak, Director of Communicable Disease Control and
Prevention. “As a result of people coming into contact with these bats,
ten individuals had to undergo a rigorous rabies prophylaxis regimen.”
Most people worry about getting rabies from a dog or cat, but data shows
that over 90% of human cases in the US are acquired from bats. “We have
nearly eliminated rabies in domestic cats and dogs due to responsible
animal vaccination,” observed Carl Friedman, Director of Animal Care &
Control. “But the presence of rabid bats in the City is troubling and
pet owners need to be aware that rabies poses a real threat to their
unvaccinated animals. Rabies vaccine is safe, effective and very
Public health officials are encouraging San Franciscans to install and
use window screens as a way of preventing bats from entering a house or
apartment. Because the City’s cool, foggy weather discourages the
proliferation of bugs and flying insects that warmer climates endure,
many city residents do not have window screens. An open window is an
invitation for bats to enter, particularly after sundown. Bats can enter
a house in very small spaces, under eaves, through chimneys, and in tiny
cracks around roof tops.
Anyone finding a bat in any room of a house should observe the following
- Try to get the bat to leave the room on its own by opening windows and
closing off doors to the inside of the house.
- If the bat appears sick, such as having difficulty flying or falling
on the floor, avoid any contact with the bat and call Animal Care &
- Also contact Animal Care & Control if your pet has come into contact
with a bat.
- Close off the area of the house where the bat is and move to a part of
the house where the bat cannot enter.
- Do not touch the bat or try to kill or catch it.
- Instruct children to stay away from bats and never touch one they may
find, even if it’s dead.
- Even if your dog or cat appears to enjoy chasing the bat, don’t be
tempted to allow your pet to capture the bat on your behalf. Keep dogs
and cats away from bats indoors.
- If you think you may have been exposed to a bat, call the San
Francisco Department of Public Health, 554-2830. Bat bites are very
small and hard to detect.