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What Not to Do with a Dead Bat

(AP Photo/Mike Groll)

One thing you definitely should not do if you find a dead bat is to put it in a jar and take it to your kids' school.

Yet that's exactly what one Montana parent decided to do last fall when the family cat brought home a dead bat. The tale appears in the current issue of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) weekly publication known as the MMWR (for Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report; not exactly beach reading).

The parent took the specimen to several classrooms, removed it from the jar and allowed students to handle it; even some teachers took part. One child dug her fingers in the creature's mouth to feel its teeth. The parent also brought the bat to an off-campus soccer game where still more kids and adults touched it. Apparently nobody thought twice about all this until the school nurse caught on and called public-health authorities.

From that point, the CDC and state and local officials took charge, determining that the bat indeed was rabid, notifying parents, interviewing those who were exposed to the bat and evaluating their need for rabies vaccination. Though only one person -- the girl who placed fingers in the bat's mouth -- was deemed by health authorities to have actually been exposed and hence to really need rabies shots, 74 people altogether sought and received vaccinations for fear they might have been exposed to the rabies virus. Nobody fell ill.

Which is all good, as untreated rabies is invariably fatal. Though many kinds of wildlife can carry rabies, bats are the biggest culprits in spreading rabies to humans in the U.S. Luckily, as we approach summer (and summer-camp season), the nation's store of rabies vaccine has been replenished after a two-year shortage.

Here's what the CDC says about what you SHOULD do with a dead bat:

While rabies can be caused from nonbite exposures, such an occurrence is rare. Assuming the bat did not bite a person prior to its death, the risk of rabies from a dead bat is remote. If there is any uncertainly about exposure to rabies, a person should contact the local or state health department. In the event that exposure does not appear to have occurred, a dead bat can be wrapped in plastic and discarded in appropriate facilities. Local and state animal control departments can provide further guidance on proper disposal of dead bats and other animals.

Have you had any rabies- or bat-related scares? Share your stories -- and vote in today's poll, please!

By Jennifer LaRue Huget  |  June 1, 2009; 7:00 AM ET
Categories:  Family Health , General Health , Vaccinations  
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Sounds like Darwin at work. Who in their right mind picks up a dead animal and parades it around? Do you think it was dead for a reason? Idiots abound. I hope the woman had to pay for every single child's health care in the wake of her ignorance.

Posted by: JorgeGortex | June 1, 2009 10:32 AM | Report abuse


The good news is, rabies is not invariably fatal.

Not that you want to put that to the test.

Posted by: Thompson2 | June 1, 2009 11:08 AM | Report abuse

Another tip to fellow animal lovers. Watch out about feeding raccoons. We fed a pregnant female, then two (rivals for the handouts), then their families (total nine) and they became aggressive enough to be at our heels, open and slam the screen door to alert us to their presence.
They ere very aggressive with each other.
The winter saved us - they disappeared.
One has now returned BUT WE AIN'T FEEDIN' HER.
Like Bats, raccoons, the most common (non-flying) wild mammal in the US can also carry rabies.

Posted by: lufrank1 | June 1, 2009 12:13 PM | Report abuse

Common sense much? A smart kid does NOT touch the dead bat that a crazy parent brings to school in a jar!!!

Posted by: saragood | June 1, 2009 1:02 PM | Report abuse

My understanding is that the school's insurance covered the cost of the vaccinations.

Posted by: Jennifer LaRue Huget | June 1, 2009 1:12 PM | Report abuse

Never, never thought about bats... until we found one flying around my daughter's play room.

Instinct kicked in, and my husband shooed the bat out of the house with a broom while my daughter and I waited behind a closed door downstairs.

Only to find out later what we should have done: trapped the bat in a room (hard to do in a house with few rooms that close off completely) and call animal control. I

Since we could never prove that the bat didn't have rabies and we couldn't completely disprove that there had been contact (maybe during naptime?), we had to go the route of the rabies vaccine.

Now I hate bats.

Posted by: darcylaine | June 1, 2009 1:14 PM | Report abuse

This world's gone batty.

Posted by: bs2004 | June 1, 2009 1:51 PM | Report abuse

So, what happened to the cat?

Posted by: al_fansome | June 1, 2009 1:55 PM | Report abuse

I love bats.

They are great fun to watch as they swoop through the air gobbling up mosquitoes. I would rather they stay outside, though, since I know they carry can rabies. I have had several bats in my old house. I used to scoop them up as gently as possible in whatever was handy (a towel or t-shirt) and take them outside. Desiring a less intimate removal process, I now have a bat net (actually a butterfly net) handy on both the ground floor and the second floor in case I get another nighttime visitor. I doubt very many old-house dwellers go through the long rabies vaccination process every time they find a bat.

The person that took a dead bat to school is wacked out, as are the teachers that allowed it.

Posted by: GloriaK | June 1, 2009 1:57 PM | Report abuse

As for the cat, here's what the CDC report says:

The cat that had discovered the bat received a rabies booster shot after a veterinarian confirmed its current rabies vaccination status. The cat was observed in the owner's home for 45 days and was reported to be healthy at the time of this report.


Posted by: Jennifer LaRue Huget | June 1, 2009 2:06 PM | Report abuse

I woke up from a nap and found a dead bat in my bedroom (the cat had apparently had at it).
I picked it up in a McDonald's coke cup and put the cover on it, and realized it wasn't quite dead.
I had read about a case of a girl in New York who had died from rabies, although there had been no bat bite. I called the hospital to ask their advice. The person told me to hold on and she would get a doctor. (I had called the hospital a few weeks before about something that seemed far more serious and they were totally uninterested.) The doctor told me I had to get rabies shots. Then I told him I had the bat, so he said I should call the health department. I live in upstate NY, so there was a rabies specialist there. He told me bring the bat to him, but I couldn't come inside with the bat--just call inside and ask for him. There he told me there had been not one but two children who had died without being bit by a bat, only exposed, so in New York State they are very aggressive about bat encounters. Fortunately, the bat was tested and was negative. My vet told me his wife had rabies shots after a similar thing happened to them, but their bat wasn't caught. I hate to say the CDC is wrong, but if exposure to a bat without a bite can possible cause rabies, I'd go for the shots--but I'm very happy my bat wasn't rabid.

Posted by: AnnNY | June 1, 2009 4:20 PM | Report abuse

So what award did the parent who brought the dead bat who shared it with all the students receive?????

Posted by: b4hockey | June 2, 2009 1:00 PM | Report abuse

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