If You Had a Bat in Your Bedroom, You May Need a Rabies Shot
Bats are adorable and important members of our ecosystem , but they also caused 17 of 19 rabies deaths in the United States between 1997 and 2006. You can get bitten without even knowing it, which is why health departments often recommend getting a rabies shot if you wake up. with a bat in your room.
The same is true for anyone who spends time with a bat and may not realize that they have been bitten, or cannot report it. This includes people under the influence of alcohol, children, and people with mental disabilities. Bats’ teeth can be small enough that you don’t notice their bite.
Why is it so important?
As soon as someone develops symptoms of rabies, they die. The disease is 100% fatal. (There are very few cases of people experiencing rabies, including one girl who fell into a coma and received antiviral treatment, but doctors are still not sure why it worked and do not recommend it to others.)
Therefore, if there is a possibility that you (or your child) have been bitten, it is probably worth getting the recommended treatment as soon as possible. For more information, contact your local or state health department; they watch out for rabies infections in wild animals. And yes, you are at risk even in the city: this 2015 map shows the many reported cases of rabies in bats in New York and other major cities.
How does rabies vaccination work?
Rabies is not your usual childhood vaccine. Chances are, you’ve never had one, unless you are a dog (you probably are not a dog). Some people who receive the vaccine as a preventive measure include veterinarians, cavers and the military, or those who travel to places where rabies is especially common.
But rabies slowly spreads from the bite to the damaged part of the body, to your central nervous system. If you get the vaccine on time, your immune system can learn to fight the virus just in time – think of it like cramming before an exam.
According to the CDC, the typical treatment for rabies is immunoglobulin vaccination – mostly antibodies that already know how to recognize the virus – along with the rabies vaccine. You will then return for three more shots on the third, seventh, and fourteenth days after the bite .
Each shot is just a shot in the arm, like a tetanus or flu shot. (When I was a kid, it was rumored that it took twenty shots to the stomach; that’s no longer the case.)
Unfortunately, rabies treatment is expensive and insurance does not always cover the amount you hope for . However, it is better to have medical bills than to die, so this is not the best place to save money. Check with your insurance company to find the best online vaccination site, and find out if your health department can cover the costs. (Some do, but many don’t.)
Catch the bat if you can
If you can catch the bat without putting yourself in harm’s way, do so. A bat can be tested for rabies, and if it doesn’t have rabies, you don’t need to get vaccinated.
The CDC has more information on bats and rabies here . In the end, ask your doctor for advice, and if he says you need rabies vaccinations, get them.