Like other animals, bats do carry diseases, so this myth is based in some fact. However, the risk of getting a disease from a bat is small because bats rarely make contact with humans. The disease most often associated with bats is rabies and, as of July 11, a total of 17 bats in Illinois had tested positive for rabies so far in 2018, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.
Although the risk of contracting rabies or any disease from a bat is minimal, people should never handle bats – or any mammals for that matter, Armstrong-Ullberg urged.
“If you come across a bat that is active during the day, it’s best to leave it alone,” she said.
If you or a pet come in contact with a bat, contact your local health department and animal control office and take the necessary safety precautions. If you are bitten by a bat, the state health department advises seeking immediate medical attention.
If a bat becomes trapped in your home, keep your distance, close off that portion of the house and leave the window open with the screen removed, so it can fly out. “They usually will,” Armstrong-Ullberg said. “They are hungry and thirsty.”
And while bats can carry rabies, it’s helpful to keep things in perspective. Rabies infections typically only affect 1 or 2 humans in the United States each year, and bats are less likely to carry rabies than raccoons, coyotes, foxes, skunks and unvaccinated domesticated animals, according to the Ohio History Center.