Needham officials have received multiple calls about bats inside homes in recent weeks, and the Needham Public Health Department and Needham Animal Control are working together to let residents know what to do if they come across the animals.
Calls to public health agencies regarding bats and the potential exposure to bats are on the rise this time of year, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health reported in a press release distributed by Needham Public Health Nurse Donna Carmichael.
Bats often choose to roost and raise their young in attics, according to the release, and after a few hot summer days, that space can become too warm for the bats, forcing them to move into people’s living quarters as they look for cooler places to roost.
In addition, baby bats that were born earlier in the summer are now old enough to begin exploring on their own.
"Inexperienced young bats may fly down a chimney, through an open window, or down attic stairs," health officials noted. "This may place them in proximity to or even in direct contact with people."
Carmichael said the town has received a number of calls about bats in homes and that Animal Control Officer Danielle Landry has taken some of the bats to the state lab for testing.
The public health release offers the following recommendations for individuals dealing with a bat problem:
- If a bat is found inside a house, do not release the bat outdoors until you can safely rule out that an exposure, as described below, occurred.
- An exposure is defined as: a person has had direct contact with a live animal and cannot rule out that a bite or scratch may have occurred; a sleeping person awaking to find a bat in the room; or, an adult witnesses a bat in the room with a previously unattended child, mentally disabled person, intoxicated person or domestic pet. Simply finding a bat inside a home does not, in itself, indicate that a potential exposure has occurred.
- If the bat is found to be rabid, or the bat is unavailable for testing, post exposure prophylaxis (PEP) should be considered.
- Decisions about exposures and the need for PEP should be made in consultation with a healthcare provider or public health.
- When necessary, bats should be safely captured using the following technique and while wearing thick leather gloves: Wait until the bat lands, cover the bat with a coffee can (or similar container), and slide cardboard under the container to trap the bat inside. Avoid doing anything that might crush the bat’s skull and make it unsuitable for testing. Never handle a bat with bare hands. Information on capturing a bat is available online at mass.gov.
Anyone with questions about potential rabies exposures or how to submit a bat to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health for rabies testing should call the Needham Animal Control Officer at 781-444-7223, the Needham Public Health Department at 781-455-7500 ext. 511 or the MDPH, Division of Epidemiology and Immunization at 617-983-6800. An epidemiologist is available 24/7 for consultation.
For additional information on rabies, visit www.mass.gov/dph/rabies.