Do Bats Bite?Do bats attack humans? There are three species of bats living in Central and South America that feed on blood. These so-called vampire bats have been known to bite sleeping people, though they usually feed on livestock. There are no Canadian bat species that feed on blood. North American bats are fearful of humans and would prefer to avoid an encounter with them if possible. They don't attack humans unless they feel threatened. If you attempt to handle a bat or try to swat it away if it flies too close, it may bite in self-defence. If you are not aware that a bat is in a room that you are walking into, you may surprise it, and it may feel threatened enough to bite. If a bat gets into your bedroom at night, you may move in your sleep in a way that the bat mistakenly interprets as threatening, and it may bite. It is not common for bats to bite humans. However, bat bites are concerning because bats are the most frequent rabies carriers among wildlife. The rabies virus is spread from the saliva of an infected animal to an opening in the body of an uninfected animal or person. Rabies damages the central nervous system and eventually causes death. Bats can also spread bacterial or fungal infections to humans. Leptospirosis is an example of the former, and histoplasmosis is an example of the latter. It is more common for people to contract these diseases by exposure to bat droppings than from bites.
What Do Bat Bites Look Like?Bats have needle-like teeth that are very small and very sharp. A bat bite may not leave a mark at all, but if it does, it will look similar to the prick of a pin. There may be very little pain, and if there are marks, they may fade within 30 minutes or less. Sometimes, the only way to tell that a bat has bitten you is to watch it happen. If a bat bites you while you are sleeping, which is not common but can happen, there may be no evidence of the bite, a potentially dangerous situation if the bat is rabid.
What Should You Do if a Bat Bites You?There are a series of steps that you should carry out if a bat bites you. If you wake up in the morning to find a bat in your bedroom, you should also take these steps because the bat may have bitten without you realizing it:
- Wash the bite site with mild soap and warm water. This helps to kill any pathogens in the wound.
- Contain the bat if you can do so without risking another bite. Skedaddle may be able to help with this.
- Call public health or your physician to report the bite. If the bat has been caught, it can be tested for rabies.
- If the bat could not be caught, your doctor will probably recommend that you receive a course of vaccinations against the rabies virus.