They have the reputation for being vicious creatures of the night, with their webbed wings and piercing eyes, but in reality bats are gentle animals. That is unless they're carrying rabies, and in Michigan there's an alarming number that are. So far this year, the number is more than three times higher than last year's.
"We think it might be partially due to just a cyclical increase in rabies cases," explains TJ Bucholz of the Michigan Department of Community Health.
Since January, the MDCH has confirmed 44 rabid bats in Mid-Michigan. The breakdown by county goes like this: 19 in Ingham, 10 in Clinton, 9 in Eaton, and 3 in both Jackson and Hillsdale. In fact, Ingham County leads the entire state for positive cases, which means the community could be at risk.
"The one that we're really concerned with is if they wake up, and it's in a bedroom," Barry-Eaton District Health Department's Steve Tackitt explains. "So they have no idea if they've been bitten or not, because, a bat bite, they have very small teeth."
Adds Bucholz, "You should make sure your home is properly sealed, that there isn't any nook or cranny that a bat can get into. You can keep your windows open at night, but make sure your screens are intact."
If a bat is found inside your home, it should be trapped, and your local health department should be called immediately, because it's possible you may have been exposed to the rabies virus.
"We cannot wait for signs or symptoms to appear, because once that happens, it's typically a fatal disease," says Dr. Dean Sienko of the Ingham County Health Department. "There's nothing that all the doctors and intensive care units can do to save someone."
So the best advice is take every precaution necessary to avoid having a bat enter your home.