(ITHACA, NY, October 26, 2023) – International Bat Week takes place from October 24th through Halloween, October 31st, to promote bat awareness and conservation efforts. Tompkins County Whole Health (TCWH) supports the NYS Department of Environmental Conversation (NYSDEC) in their efforts to encourage outdoor enthusiasts to refrain from visiting caves and mines during the fall and winter months. Bat health is particularly vulnerable to human visitation during their winter hibernation in these sites, especially as these populations have recently been significantly impacted by white-nose syndrome, a fungal disease that affects hibernating, insect-eating bats.
Tompkins County is fortunate to be home to multiple bat species, as bats provide an important pest control role and are a vital part of the ecosystem. It is important that we protect the areas where bats live while creating barriers to entry into our homes, as bats can carry the rabies virus. TCWH has collaborated with several local organizations to protect the natural environment of the bat while maintaining safety for our homes using a “One Health Model”. The “One Health Model” recognizes that we must address environmental, veterinary, and human health issues together to optimize health for all.
Bats can enter buildings through holes or crevices as small as half an inch. Keep doors and windows properly screened, chimneys capped, and keep exterior basement and attic doors or windows closed and in good repair. Close interior openings such as those around plumbing or gas pipes, electrical wiring, or heating and air conditioning units found in utility closets, cabinets, behind appliances, and under sinks. For additional information on how to keep bats out of your home, visit: https://www.batcon.org/about-bats/bats-in-homes-buildings/.
A small number of rabid bats are confirmed in Tompkins County every year. It is important to avoid the serious, potentially fatal, risk of rabies by safely capturing and submitting for laboratory testing any bat found in a home that may have come in contact with humans or pets. If the bat is found in a public area, if it is found near a pet, a child, a sleeping person, or someone with a sensory impairment, or you are not sure if contact occurred, capture the bat and contact TWCH’s Environmental Health Division, 24/7, at 607-274-6688.
As a reminder, TCWH holds regular rabies vaccination clinics for pets throughout the county because owners of vaccinated pets that encounter bats in the home can have the option of releasing a bat found with a vaccinated pet if no human exposure has occurred and the owner agrees to get their pet a booster vaccination.
Tompkins County Whole Health reminds everyone to:
- Avoid contact with any unfamiliar cats or dogs and any wild animals.
- All cats, dogs and ferrets must have initial rabies vaccinations administered no later than four months of age. Keep vaccinations current.
- Report the following incidents to Environmental Health, 24/7, at 607-274-6688:
- All animal bites or scratches.
- Any human or pet contact with saliva or other potentially infectious material (brain tissue, spinal tissue, or cerebro-spinal fluid) of wild animals or any animal suspected of having rabies.
- All bat bites, scratches, or any mere skin contact with a bat, or a bat in a room with a child, or sleeping or impaired person.
Further information can be found at: tompkinscountyny.gov/health/eh/rabies
Tompkins County Whole Health (formerly the Tompkins County Health Department and Mental Health Services) envisions a future where every person in Tompkins County can achieve wellness. Find us online at TompkinsCountyNY.gov/health, and follow us on Facebook at facebook.com/TompkinsWholeHealth and on Twitter at @TCWholeHealth. Get Whole Health updates or other county announcements via email or text, sign up here.
Media contact: Shannon Alvord, firstname.lastname@example.org