Rabies is one of the biggest health concerns for households with unwelcome bats on the premises. Unlike domestic dogs and cats which are typically vaccinated to prevent infection, bats can carry and transmit rabies from one animal to another – including humans. You shouldn’t minimize the risk of rabies, but less than 3% of bats in Virginia have been shown to carry the deadly virus.
Because a rabid bat’s behaviour frequently puts them in contact with people and their pets, such as flying during the day or on the ground because they’re unable to fly, the transmission of rabies can occur quite easily through accident or if someone tries to handle a grounded bat themselves. It’s also been known for bats to attack when ill with the disease. What’s more, the virus can continue to thrive in the dead carcass of a bat.
Luckily, if you’re bitten by a bat with rabies, you can prevent getting the disease with prompt medical attention and a vaccination; most domestic animals should be protected from infection if vaccinated regularly.
Another potential disease connected to bat problems is histoplasmosis, which is a common lung disease caused by a microscopic fungus called H. capsulatum. The fungus thrives in nitrogen rich soil, which is often created as a result of large deposits of bat guano (poop) and waste from birds like the common starling and pigeon. It’s the unique combination of rotting bat guano and soil that makes the environmental conditions just right for the fungus.
The fungus will then accumulate and be transmitted by the bats from one site – such as roosts in caves, barns, belfries and attics – to another. This puts bat infested buildings and households in danger of readily coming into contact with, or breathing in, the disturbed spores; therefore, increasing the chance of the inhabitants contracting the histoplasmosis disease.
So if you’re a spelunker, nature explorer, pest control technician, or just an everyday person who decided to clean out the attic or barn – you could be at risk. Unfortunately, chronic or progressive lung disease can result from infection, along with associated sickness such as cough and fever. In rarer situations, it’s even been known to be fatal.