Bat Diseases

Zoonotic Diseases are diseases that can pass from animals to people. There are several avenues through which this can happen. Some of the most common methods of transmission include: Fecal-oral, respiratory, direct contact, penetrating wound, and vector-borne diseases.

The following are diseases that can be transmitted from bats to people. Understanding these diseases and how they are  transferred can help you avoid exposure.


(Penetrating Wound Transmission)

Rabies is a disease that affects the nervous system of animals and humans. It is caused by a virus present in the saliva and brain/spinal cord of infected animals. The rabies virus is usually transmitted through the bite of a rabid animal.

Only mammals are susceptible to rabies. Animals most likely to transmit the disease in the United States include bats, coyotes, foxes, raccoons and skunks.

Due to the nature of bat bites, which are small and can go unnoticed, evalutaing exposure to rabid bats is different than other mammals. Anyone should consider themselves exposed who has either come in direct contact and cannot rule out a bite or has been in a room with the animal where the level of contact in uncertain (i.e. a bat in your room while you were sleeping).

Symptoms in Wild Animals

Symptoms of rabies you may see in wild animals include:

 Unprovoked aggression: which causes some animals to attack anything that moves, sometimes even inanimate objects

 Unusual friendliness: which causes normally unsocial animals to approach people and nocturnal animals to be active in the daytime (keep in mind, though, some daytime activity is normal; especially when nocturnal animals are feeding their young)

 Stumbling, falling, appearing disoriented or wandering aimlessly

 Paralysis, often beginning in the hind legs or throat (throat paralysis can cause the animal to drool, choke, and froth at the mouth)

Vocalization ranging from chattering to shrill screams

 Sore feet: raccoons may walk as if they are on hot pavement

– Rabies will eventually kill the infected animal

Skunks, raccoons, foxes, and dogs usually show unprovoked aggession, while bats become disoriented and unable to fly. Bats on the ground pose a risk to children and pets.

Domestic animals, such as cats, dogs, horses, cattle, sheep, and goats can contract rabies. The disease may manifest as a sudden change in dispostion, failure to eat or drink, disorientation, or paralysis.

You cannot tell whether an animal is rabid just by it’s behavior. Other diseases, such as distemper and toxoplasmosis, can cause similar symptoms. The only way to prove an animal is rabid is to have it’s brain tissue tested.


Rabies in People

You may be exposed to rabies by any bite, scratch, or other circumstance where saliva or central nervous system (CNS) tissue from a potentially rabid animal enters an open wound or comes in contact with a mucus membrane by entering the eye, mouth or nose.

The incubation period for rabies in humans can be as short as 10 days. In some cases, though, symptoms can take over a year to manifest.

If you suspect you may have come in contact with the rabies virus you should seek medical treatment immediately. Once symptoms develop, the disease is almost always fatal.

If the animal is domestic, it is helpful to contact the pets owner to determine if rabies shots are up-to-date. Even if they are, you still need to call the local health department to inquire about quarantine guidelines. 

Unfortunately, you cannot depend on a quarantine period for wild animals suspected of rabies. These animals must be killed and tested, if at all possible.

Do not put yourself in danger by trying to euthanize a potentially rabid animal. Call your local wildlife removal professionals. 

Regardless of whether or not the animal is able to be tested, you should report the bite to the local health department and seek medical attention.


(Respiratory Transmission)

Histoplasmosis is a type of lung infection. It is caused by inhaling Histoplasma capsulatum fungal spores. These spores are found in soil enriched by the droppings of bats and birds (especially chickens) that are more than 3 years old. 

These soils may exist around old chicken coops, near roosts of starlings and blackbirds, in decaying trees, in caves, and other areas where bats live – including indoors in attics. 

The fungus produces spores that get into the air if the contaminated soil is disturbed. Inhaling these spores causes infection.

Most cases of histoplasmosis don’t require treatment. In fact, many people never show any symptoms. When someone does get sick, the illness can vary from a mild respiratory disease to a serious illness that effects the entire body.

If you suspect you have contracted histoplasmosis and are experiencing mild to severe symptoms, you should seek medical treatment. Antibiotics may be necessary.

Once you have contracted histoplasmosis, you do not usually get it again.