A bat exposure includes bat bites, scratches, or handling a bat without gloves, but may also include awaking to a bat in the bedroom or finding a bat in a room with an unaccompanied child or incapacitated adult. For pets and livestock, this may include holding a bat in their mouths or being in the same area as the bat, such as a living room or barn.
It may be difficult in some situations to tell if a bat exposed a person or domestic animal. Therefore, bat exposures should be evaluated on a case-by-case basis and always treated with caution.
Contact your health care provider about any potential exposure. The following steps are recommended if you, someone under your care, or a pet is exposed to a bat.
Trapping and Releasing Bats
- Always attempt to capture the bat if you can safely do so.
- Never handle a bat with your bare hands. Wear thick gloves, if available.
- Put a container over the bat once it lands, then gently slide some cardboard underneath.
- Take care not to damage the bat's head. Damaging the head can invalidate rabies testing.
- Only release the bat outdoors if you are certain no people or pets were exposed.
- If there is any uncertainty, call Maine CDC before releasing the bat.
Submitting Bats for Rabies Testing
- Bats can be tested for rabies at Maine's Health and Environmental Testing Laboratory.
- If a person or pet is exposed to a bat, contact your nearest Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife's (Maine IF&W) Warden Service Dispatch Center. A Game Warden will pick up and deliver the bat to the state lab for rabies testing.
- An epidemiologist will follow up with results on any bat that tests positive.
- Lab results for bats submitted before 9 a.m. are usually available the same day.
Rabies Treatment in Humans
- Rabies treatment is called rabies post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP).
- Rabies PEP should be administered within 10 days of an exposure.
- In most cases, rabies PEP can wait until lab results come back for the tested animal.
- People exposed to bats should contact their health care providers.
- Health care providers will make the decision to begin or discontinue rabies PEP.
Rabies Management in Pets and Livestock
- If your pets or livestock are exposed to a bat, call your veterinarian.
- Domestic animals exposed to bats may need to be quarantined in order to rule out rabies.
- Keeping your pets up to date on rabies vaccination can reduce quarantine times.
- If you have ongoing issues with bats, contact a Maine IF&W Regional Wildlife Biologist who can talk to you about your options for removing bats from the building.
Bats and COVID-19
- To date, there are no reported cases of SARS-CoV-2 in North American wildlife, including bats. Mainers are unlikely to get COVID-19 when interacting with bats and other wildlife.
For more information:
- Maine CDC Rabies webpage: www.maine.gov/dhhs/rabies
- Maine IF&W Bats webpage: www.maine.gov/ifw/fish-wildlife/wildlife/living-with-wildlife/avoid-resolve-conflict/bats.html
- Maine CDC disease reporting & consultation line: 1-800-821-5821 (available 24/7)
- Maine IF&W Game Warden Dispatch Centers (for bat pick-up and delivery)
- Augusta: 1-800-452-4664
- Bangor: 1-800-432-7381
- Houlton: 1-800-924-2261
- Maine IF&W Regional Offices: www.maine.gov/ifw/about/contact/department-directory.html