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Health Commissioner Warns of Bat Problem

By Eileen Buckley

Buffalo, NY – Residents across Erie County are being warned to watch for bats in their homes. County Health Commissioner Dr. Anthony Billittier says there have been an "alarming number" of bat exposures.

Eleven people have been given rabies vaccinations since May due to bat bites. Billittier says that's alarming, since the department normally experiences the biggest problem during the month of August.

"Too many people are being treated for exposures that can be prevented," Billittier said. "We talk about this every year. It seems when the weather becomes hot bats look for shade and seem to come inside.

"The problem is bats have very sharp teeth and can actually bite people while they are sleeping and don't even know it."

Billittier says if a bat enters your home, don't injury it but try to capture it alive. If the bat's brain is damaged, the Health Department won't be able to test it for rabies.

"By taking a large coffee can or other container, simply wait for the bat to land and put the container over it," Billittier explained. "Slide a piece of cardboard underneath then call the Erie County Health Department. We will direct them to our nearest field office and ask them to deliver the bat."

Bats can find their way into homes through the smallest of openings. Billittier says they can get into a hole the size of a quarter, so it's important to "bat proof" homes.

"What we recommend to people if they don't know how to seal up holes, they should contract with a home maintenance company," Billittier said. "They can also call an exterminator to figure out where the vermin are coming in from.

"Once they've had a problem, they should do everything they can to seal up their house so they don't have more problems with bats."

The Health Commissioner says there are some confirmed cases of rabid bats in Erie County. But Billittier says rabies in humans is 100 percent preventable and treatable.