Bats are the leading cause of rabies deaths in people in the United States. People and domestic animals should avoid contact with bats. Bats should never be kept as pets.
Rabies can spread to people from bats after minor, seemingly unimportant, or unrecognized bites or scratches. Rabies postexposure prophylaxis (or PEP, which includes vaccination) is recommended for any person with a bite or scratch from a bat, unless the bat is available for testing and tests negative for rabies.
Bat bites can be very small so a person might not always know when they have been bitten by a bat. PEP should also be considered when direct contact between a person and a bat might have occurred, and a bite or scratch cannot be confidently ruled out. For example, if you wake up with a bat in your room, you may have been exposed to rabies and should see your doctor or call your health department, even if you don’t feel a bite. Healthcare providers will conduct a risk assessment to determine if you need rabies vaccination. If there is no clear explanation for how the bat got into your home, you may also need to consult a bat remediation specialist to determine if bats are living in your home.
If you or someone in your home has potentially been exposed to a bat, the bat should be safely captured (if possible) and you should immediately contact your local health department. When appropriate, the health department will arrange for testing of the bat. If the bat can be captured and tests negative for rabies, then you will not need PEP.
Learn more about avoiding risk of rabies from bats.