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Health Officals: 'Catch the Bat, Avoid the Shot'

By LEXIE O'CONNOR

The Oneida County Heath Department is seeing an alarming trend involving the release of bats before they can be tested for rabies. Now they are urging residents to catch any bat they find in their home and see if it needs to be tested in order to avoid the risk of rabies and the need for expensive treatment.

The Health Department says that the summer months are when bats are most active and not catching a bat and getting it tested is forcing more people across New York State and Oneida County to undergo rabies shots.

"Just last week, we started a family of six on rabies shots here in Oneida County because they did not capture the bat in the home," said Bobbi Kahl, Sanitarian with the Oneida County Health Department. "If it had been captured, it could have easily been tested and we would have known whether or not they had to get rabies shots, but to be safe, now we have to start them all on rabies shots."

Kahl says post rabies exposure treatment can cost between $5,000 to $10,000 a person.

The Health Department recommends that if you see any bat in your home, to close all the doors and windows to prevent it from escaping. Once it lands, wear gloves to place a container over the bat, trapping it against a wall or floor and then slip a piece of cardboard under the container to trap the bat inside. Once the container is sealed, call the Oneida County Health Department at (315) 798- 5064 before releasing it to see if it needs to be tested.

Officials say that even if you don't think you were bitten, you should still catch the bat and call them.

"They're sneaky and have very small teeth," said Kahl. "And it's possible, if you're a very sound sleeper, on medication of some sort or have been drinking, that you might sleep threw being bitten by a bat."

The Heath Department says bats were responsible for 38 of 41 human rabies cases in the nation since 1990, including two fatal human rabies cases in New York State since 1993.

For more information and to see the proper technique in capturing a bat go to the Oneida County Health Department website at www.ocgov.net/oneida/health and click on "Rabies Awareness" or call them at (315) 798-5064.

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