Management of Human-Bat Encounters

Animal Bites and Rabies Risk: A Guide for Health Professionals

On this page:
Bat encounters and bat bites
When should a bat be submitted for rabies testing?
How to capture a bat and submit it for testing
Assessment of the need for rabies PEP following a bat encounter

Bat encounters and bat bites

Most people who have been bitten by a bat report a stinging or needle prick sensation. However, bat bites may not be noticed, especially if someone is asleep, and bat bites may leave little or no evidence of a wound or puncture.

When should a bat be submitted for rabies testing?

  • A person has been bitten or has had any physical contact with a bat.
  • A person wakes up to find a bat in the bedroom.
  • A bat is found in a room with an unattended child.

How to capture a bat and submit it for testing

  • Use a container with a lid. Do not use pillowcases, blankets or towels, as bats may bite through fabric.
  • Wear leather gloves.
  • Approach the bat slowly and place the container over the bat. Then slide the lid (or a piece of cardboard) underneath the bat and flip the container over, trapping the bat inside.
  • Secure the lid with tape.
  • There is no need to kill the bat; the bat may be hand delivered alive to the Minnesota Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory during normal business hours or it may be euthanized by a veterinarian prior to shipping. The brain must remain intact for the bat to be tested for rabies.
  • If the bat is dead, keep it cool, but avoid freezing.
  • Submit the bat for rabies testing: (For more information on rabies specimen submission, including after hours submissions, see rabies testing).
  • In some Minnesota communities, an animal control officer may be called to capture a bat and submit it for rabies testing.

Assessment of the need for rabies PEP following a bat encounter

  • Administration of rabies PEP should generally be deferred until the results of a rabies test are known. Test results are available within 1 to 2 business days and only 3% to 4% of bats test positive for rabies.
  • PEP should be initiated if there is a human/bat encounter during which physical contact occurred or may have occurred, and the bat is not available for testing.
  • Consultation with MDH on handling bat encounters is available 24/7 to healthcare providers and veterinarians at 651-201-5414, and to the public at the same number Monday to Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Updated Wednesday, 23-Oct-2013 10:31:42 CDT