State Health Director Warns Residents to Avoid Contact with Bats
On the first day of summer, Illinois
Department of Public Health Director Dr. Damon T.
Arnold is warning Illinoisans to avoid contact with
bats as they start becoming more active during this
time of year. Bats are the primary carrier of rabies
in Illinois. Thirteen bats and one bovine have
tested positive for rabies already this year.
“Over the past couple years the Department has
received increasing reports and phone calls about
people coming into contact with, or being exposed to,
bats,” said Dr. Arnold. “It’s important to remember
that you should never try to approach or catch a bat,
or any wild animal, in your home. Instead, call your
local animal control agency for its recommendations.”
In 2010, 117 bats tested positive for rabies in
Rabies is a virus that affects the nervous system of
humans and other mammals. Humans can get rabies
after being bitten by an infected animal. Rabies can
also be contracted when saliva from a rabid animal
gets directly into the eyes, nose, mouth or a wound.
Without preventive treatment, rabies is a fatal
disease. If you have been bitten or exposed to a
bat, seek immediate medical attention. Treatment
with rabies immune globulin and a vaccine series must
“You cannot tell by looking at a bat if it is rabid.
The animal does not have to be aggressive or exhibit
other symptoms to have rabies,” said Connie Austin,
state public health veterinarian. “Any wild mammal,
such as a raccoon, skunk, fox, coyote or bat, can
have rabies and transmit it to humans.”
Changes in any animal’s normal behavior, such as
difficulty walking or an overall appearance of
illness, can be early signs of rabies. For example,
rabid skunks, which normally are nocturnal and avoid
contact with people, may approach humans during
daylight hours. A bat that is active during the day,
found on the ground or is unable to fly, is more
likely than others to be rabid. Such bats are often
easily approached, but should never be handled.
The following tips can help prevent the spread of
• Be a responsible pet owner. Keep vaccinations
up-to-date for all dogs, cats and ferrets.
• Seek immediate veterinary assistance for your pet
if your pet is bitten by a wild animal or exposed to
• Call the local animal control agency to remove
stray animals in your neighborhood.
• Do not handle, feed or unintentionally attract wild
animals with open garbage cans or litter.
• Never adopt wild animals or bring them into your
home. Do not try to nurse sick animals to health.
Call animal control or an animal rescue agency for
• Teach children never to handle unfamiliar animals,
wild or domestic, even if they appear friendly.
“Love your own, leave other animals alone” is a good
principle for children to learn to reduce the risk of
exposures to rabid animals.
• Maintain homes and other buildings so bats cannot
• If a bat is in your home, do not release the bat
outdoors until after speaking with animal control or
public health officials. If you are able to do so
without putting yourself at risk for physical contact
or being bitten, try to cover the bat with a large
can or bucket, and close the door to the room.
Information about keeping bats out of your home or
buildings can be found by logging on to
Information about rabies can be found at