The warmer weather marks the awakening of bats from hibernation, and the Saint Louis County Department of Health is cautioning residents to avoid handling the animals, since some can carry rabies. Four bats that tested positive for rabies were recovered recently in west and south St. Louis County; University City and Affton.
Any county resident who encounters a live or dead bat in their home is urged to call the health department. Residents should not attempt to capture a live bat but should confine it to the room where it is discovered so animal control officers can collect it for rabies testing.
Never release a bat found in a home if it was present while people were sleeping or in the same room with children or adults who, due to health or age, may not be able to describe the extent of their exposure.
During business hours, residents should call (314) 831-6500. After business hours, and on weekends and holidays, county residents should call Saint Louis County Police at (314) 889-2341
Last year, 377 bats were tested and 20 had rabies, said La'Rhonda Garrett-Wheelington, DOH Program Manager of Vector Control and Veterinary Services.
Most bats don't carry rabies, and in fact perform a beneficial service by eating large quantities of insects. But if one bat in a colony contracts rabies, chances are it will spread to other members of the colony.