Harford County Health Department statement on bat infestations in two Aberdeen apartment communities

July 26, 2011

The following is a statement from the Harford County Health Department, dated July 26, about bat infestations at two Aberdeen area apartment communities:

Significant bat colonizations and reports from apartment residents of bat sightings within their apartment units prompted an immediate investigation on the part of the Harford County Health Department into circumstances in the Cranberry Run and Perrywood Gardens apartment complexes in Aberdeen.

On July 13, 2011, the Harford County Health Department received a complaint from a Cranberry Run resident about a bat inside an apartment unit. It also was reported that manybats had been seen entering and leaving apartment complex buildings. After discussions with the resident, the Health Department collaborated with a licensed wildlife control operator hired by the apartment complex, to investigate the situation at Cranberry Run. It subsequently was determined thatbats gaining entry into apartment units through exposed holes and gaps observed by the licensed wildlife control operators were habitating building attics and crawl spaces within the complex. Arrangements are being made between apartment management and licensed wildlife control operators to carry out the process of permanently excluding thebats from the buildings.

Meanwhile, in partnership with colleagues at the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, the Harford County Health Department is educating all residents of both complexes about public health risks of exposure to bats and is conducting risk assessments for any resident who reports potential exposure to bats. The health concern regarding bats is that a small percentage of the bat population is infected with rabies, a fatal disease that is transmitted by infectious saliva to people, usually through a bite or scratch of an infected animal.

Harford County Health Officer Susan Kelly states, "Bats are an important part of our ecosystem and simply being around a bat does not expose a person to rabies. However, risk increases as persons come into direct contact with bats. Unlike, for instance a dog bite, the bite of a bat is less recognizable because of how small and sharp the teeth of a bat are. Because some contacts with bats may go unnoticed, such as might occur when a person is sleeping in the same room as a bat, post-exposure treatment to prevent rabies may be necessary for individuals who have had contact with a bat."

Ms. Kelly goes on to say that it is extremely important that anyone who might have been exposed to bat saliva be assessed so that rabies preventive treatment can be administered if it is needed. "Individuals residing in either Cranberry Run or Perrywood Gardens with questions and concerns about potential bat exposure, are urged to contact the Harford County Health Department at 410-612-1774 for a risk assessment."

Treatment, known as post-exposure prophylaxis, is administered after a bite or exposure to infectious saliva in order to prevent the fatal disease. For healthy individuals, preventive treatment consists of rabies immune globulin and four doses of rabies vaccine administered over two weeks.

Although human rabies is very rare in the United States, bats have been the most common source of the infection for recent human cases in this country. However, most bats do not have rabies and therefore cannot transmit the virus. If a person or pet is exposed to a bat, the bat should be collected safely if possible, and tested for rabies.

Bats present a risk of exposure to rabies not only to humans but to pets as well. In order to protect both pets and their owners from rabies, all dog, cat and ferret owners are required by law to have their pets vaccinated against rabies. Any pet that may have come in contact with a bat at the Cranberry Run Apartments should receive a booster vaccination against rabies.

On July 15th, Health Department staff were on-site at Cranberry Run placing flyers on the doors of all units urging residents' cooperation in identifying those apartments and their households at increased risk of rabies exposure. When reports of bat sightings inside apartments at the Perrywood Gardens were received a few days later, the Department expanded its outreach to residents in both complexes and organized public health meetings.

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