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Health officials issue advisory about bats in Brookline

Posted by Brock Parker  July 13, 2011 11:52 AM

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After more than 20 bats have been captured in Brookline homes this year, health officials are reminding residents to capture and have the bats tested for rabies if anyone in the home has been exposed to the animal.

“If a bat is found inside a house or other building, do not release the bat outdoors until you can safely rule out an exposure,” said Pat Maloney, Brookline’s chief of environmental health in a public health advisory.

While more than 20 bats have been captured in Brookline buildings this year, the health department said none have tested positive for rabies. But the viral disease has been found in the bat population in the town in previous years, officials said.

If anyone such as an unattended child, mentally disabled person, intoxicated person or deeply sleeping person may have been exposed to a bat and bitten without being aware of it, the bat should be captured and tested for rabies, health officials said.

“If the bat cannot be captured and tested, all potentially exposed persons should be vaccinated,” said Barbara Westley, Brookline’s public health nurse.

Since there is often no visible bite mark or scratch left on the skin because of a bat’s small tooth size, bat bites may go undetected, health officials said.

Pets that have been exposed to bats may need booster vaccinations and an observation period.

People and pets exposed to bats should be reported to the Brookline Department of Public Health at 617-730-2300.

The Brookline Department of Public Health released the following series of control measures and precautions about rabies:

If you discover a bat in your home or other building, determine if any humans or pets may have been exposed to the bat.

If an exposure is ruled out, the bat may be released outside through an open window.

If a human or pet has been exposed to a bat, the bat should be captured and tested for rabies. You should not try to capture the bat yourself except as a last resort. The bat should not be crushed during capture since it then may not be acceptable for testing. If possible, have the bat captured by a professional pest control expert and sent to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health’s Rabies Lab for testing.
A listing of professional pest control companies can be obtained by contacting BDPH, 617-730-2300 or by going to www.brooklinema.gov/health/ and clicking on “Environmental Health Services.”

Do not pick up, touch or feed wild or stray animals of any kind. This includes leaving pet food outside for your own animals or other animals.

Avoid sick or strange-acting animals.

Vaccinate all cats, dogs and ferrets against rabies.

Fasten trash can lids tightly. Garbage attracts wild animals.

Cap chimneys and seal openings into houses, garages, etc. For a brochure on critter-proofing your property, contact the BDPH, 617-730-2300 or click on “Environmental Health Services” at www.brooklinema.gov/health/

If you are bitten or scratched by any animal you should promptly wash the wound(s) with soapy water and see a healthcare provider immediately. You should also report the incident to BDPH.

If your pet is bitten or scratched by another animal, wear gloves when handling or cleaning your pet. Afterwards, wash your hands thoroughly. Report the incident to your veterinarian and to BDPH.

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