[00:00:02] Thanks Frank. Stephen Vantassel here wildlife control consultant with another episode for on living the wild life. For the geek fans out there. We’re going. Today I want to talk about rabies. Specifically bat rabies. Because
[00:00:19] The fact of the matter is is bat rabies is perhaps the most common way that most humans are exposed to the rabies virus. Sure we can be exposed by skunks or raccoons or other rabies vector species. But the most common one for humans in the least in the United States actually is from bats. And so I wanted to give a little bit of insight for those of you we’re looking to get into wildlife control because if you screw up this pipe process with how to handle potential rabies exposure to the bats you can end up costing your client tens of thousands of dollars in wasted medical expenses or you can kill your client.
The Actions Of A Wildlife Operator Are Clearly Tied To Health And Safety
[00:01:08] And so clear this is one of the few areas in wildlife control where the actions of a wildlife control operator are clearly tied to health and safety in a surprisingly large amount of money depending on if the person needs to get rabies shots and that sort of things to prevent the contractions. Let’s talk a little about bat rabies here first of all a bat rabies. Like all rabies is a list of virus it’s part of the family of the rhabdovirus families. Let me unpack that for you a little bit. The rhabdovirus family means it’s a rod. So if you’ve ever had Oh
[00:01:53] The the rounded type licorice candy back in the day or something like that the spill or a vitamin that’s that’s more oblong. That’s a rhabdovirus shape it looks like a rod or a small rod. And so that’s where the. And so under electron microscope the rabies virus looks like a rod and it’s a Lyssavirus which is a subcategory of the rhabdovirus. Lyssa comes from a word meaning rage. And so this is where you get the notion where a rabid animal is is a violent and angry and attacking thing. So this is a term from history where the the furious form of rabies is being accentuated here now typically what makes rabies such a dangerous disease is that it leads to death. There have been a couple of cases where people have quote unquote survived. I think there was one out of Wisconsin where they treated the patient with large amounts of steroids I believe in the person recovered and by recovery I mean my understanding is is that the patient was able to walk out of the hospital which is pretty impressive given that typically rabies is 100 percent lethal but obviously that’s not true anymore. So we’re really looking at like ninety nine point nine nine nine percent likely to die.
[00:03:19] So we want to be sure we’re careful with rabies because if we get it wrong really bad things happen for us. And so. What we find is historically when we’ve put this little bit historical perspective rabies is not a new disease it’s been around for thousands of years in fact the ancient Greeks talked about animals displaying symptoms that were believed to be rabies in more specifically in the 10th century a Persian physician now Persia is modern day Iran and his name was Razi. His name was Razi and he said he who eats the tongue or heart of a bat shell flee from water and die.
[00:04:08] And so those of you who know a little bit about rabies already know that part of the rabies is also called hydrophobic which are afraid of water in the them. The idea is that animals that have late stages of rabies have difficulty swallowing because they’re beginning to lose some neurological control of the muscles in their body and so they avoid water because they don’t want to drown by swallowing water and not being able to put it down in their stomach rather than their lungs. And so this idea of hydro phobia fear of water comes in there. So it’s interesting that even this physician in the 10th century had a very interesting way of describing how would contract rabies so his argument is don’t eat the tongue of a bat and don’t eat the heart of a bat. So stay away from bats. So this is clearly reference or most likely a reference to rabies.
[00:05:07] So how many species have been involved or known to carry rabies. Well I believe we have somewhere around 40 one 44 species. I mean things the way the the nomenclature changes around. Why don’t we just say we have under 50 species of bats in the United States while 33 of those species have been associated with rabies in one way or another. So as a general rule. Just think of rabies rabies as being endemic to the bat animal group. And so if you’re encountering a bat you always want to keep that in the back of your mind doesn’t mean you go around killing bats because all it might be rabid. That’s just stupid. Don’t do that. But the idea being as you be careful when you’re encountering these animals and that it could be because the reality is any mammal. Can carry rabies. And so any warm blooded creature including humans can carry. Rabies. So if you’re dealing with a bird you don’t have to worry about rabies. If you’re dealing with a snake you don’t have to worry about rabies. You may have to worry about other things but you don’t have to worry about rabies. So rabies is a warm blooded mammal. Dogs, cats, possums, raccoons, skunks. Now you may say well I’m not worried about rabies when I’m dealing with squirrels and that that’s certainly true. However it doesn’t mean that the squirrel can’t have rabies so.
[00:06:43] The reason why I mean just take a little sidebar here away from Bat rabies for a moment the reason why some of these rodent species such as tree squirrels, mice, rats. The reason why we don’t know normally see rabies in the species is not not that they can’t contract rabies because they can but because typically rabies is transmitted by a bite. So if a predator which is carrying rabies bites one of these creatures. What happens is the animal. Typically dies of the bite before rabies has sufficient time to infect their brain where they can then transmit the rabies to something else so it’s not that a squirrel or a mouse or a rat can’t contract rabies. They can it’s that the animal during the attack dies so that we don’t encounter it because the animal needs to be alive long enough for rabies to get into its brain and then down into its saliva glands and then still have enough wherewithal to bite something else. So this is why you’ll have cases of wood chucks for instance where wood chucks are being a much larger rodent. Can have rabies because they may survive an attack let’s say a bite from a fox or a bite from a raccoon where they may survive that attack because they may defend themselves and be able to get away. So I hope that kind of clears that up again.
[00:08:23] So the idea being is just because it’s rare and it’s extraordinarily rare so rare that your health department if you’re bit by a mouse may not even consider that worthy of rabies shots. But that’s a decision for them to make.
How Selective Bias Determines The Outcome Of Rabies Studies
[00:08:39] But it doesn’t mean that it’s impossible. So it’s just you know we’re talking about lottery level Mega Ball level probability here. So it’s just beyond almost beyond the pale. It’s more of a theoretical issue rather than a practical issue. So I hope that kind of helps you understand the rationale when we’re dealing with some of these smaller rodents they can carry rabies but it doesn’t mean that the likelihood of them actually transmitting it to another animal is highly local. They normally die from the initial attack. All right. Hope that clears that up here.
[00:09:12] So how how serious is bat rabies in the United States. Well let me give you some try to give you some data here.
[00:09:20] So since 1955 to 2005 positive rabies in rats.
[00:09:32] In other words mean excuse me positive rabies identifications in bats not rats and bats in the United States was increased to about 14 hundred a year. So if you look at some of the data you’ll find that there’s it’s been steadily rising and part of that’s due to the fact that more and more people are becoming aware of bat rabies. And so more and more animals are being submitted. To rabies labs to see if they’re if they’re rabid and then they can decide whether there needs to be an exposure of those words a prevention testing and that sort of thing where you have if there has been an exposure than people go through the preventative shots so as. So those numbers have been increasing because greater awareness has led to greater testing. So again we’re talking about user submissions of bats that where the bat was tested to be positive. Now there’s a lot of bats that are tested that turn out to be negative. However these were positive tests of rabid bats. So to put that in context between 2001 and 2006 10000 bats are actually the actual number is ten thousand four hundred and fifty three bats were tested. Only of that number only 9 percent tested positive for rabies. So you can see there’s an enormous amount of bats being tested. But out of all those testings only 9 percent tested positive. So how does this 9 percent number compare with the common number you may have heard from various biologists that say only a half a percent to 1 percent of all bats are carrying rabies so how do we get this massive difference between biologists who tell us there’s only a half to 1 percent rabid bats in in nature but yet when we look at the testing we’re getting 9 percent.
[00:11:51] Well here’s why. What’s called selection. Bias. So because the how you gather your data influences what the results are going to be. Let me give an illustration that’s going to be not the rabid bat related if you’re trying to find if you’re trying to do a survey of criminality in the United States there’s you’re going to get a different number. If you’re interviewing people on the street an ordinary street of any city in the United States as compared to a survey that you did inside the local county jail. That’s known as selection bias. So there’s a difference between a random person you’re meeting on the street or in this case a random bat that you’re meeting and Nature vs. a person that you’re meeting in jail. Versus a bat you’re encountering inside of a structure that may have had an exposure to people. So the reality is is that most when bats are encountering people. There is a higher chance that that that is sick because normal bats don’t want anything to do with people. Because we’re big and more scary and there’s no way they’re gonna be able to eat us. And so they want to run away. It’s sort of like why would you if you’re 5 foot tall why would you not express fear by someone who comes at you that with that 6 foot 5 300 pounds and built like a rock.
[00:13:31] Why would you go up and punch that person. You just wouldn’t do it. I mean it’s just silly. Same way with the bat thing with this animal that may weigh an ounce or so looking at someone like me. Almost 240 pounds. That’s just that like Godzilla that back the same way that anybody else even if you have a 10 year old to a bat that child is a smaller Godzilla. So when you’re dealing with situations where bats are inside of a structure and then inside the living space that’s where the where we’d normally walk around there I not talking about attics here talking about kitchens and bedrooms and bathrooms the living space of that home. If you’re encountering a bat there there is a higher chance that that bat is sick. Not a guarantee. As you can tell. We have ten thousand four hundred fifty three bats tested the United States between the years 2001 and 2006 but only 9 percent tested positive. So it’s not a guarantee that this rabid. Just means there’s a higher possibility that it’s rabid. That’s a selection bias. That’s an important statistical concept that you want to kind of keep in the back of your mind because it helps you evaluate scientific literature has the researcher gotten a true sample. Or did he bias his sample by selecting only things that were more likely to fulfill his study goals.
[00:15:00] Ok so that’s the difference. So my point here is when we’re talking about bats inside the living space. We don’t want to be scaring our clients to death
Because chances are the bat isn’t rabid. However you can’t tell your client that the bats not rabid.
[00:15:24] You don’t know if the bats being rabid you have to just simply treat it like an unknown. But we need to have the bat tested. So it’s critical that you capture that bat in a manner that doesn’t harm the brain. This means no tennis rackets no baseball bats no fly squatters. You need to have that bat captured in a manner that does not damage the bats brain because if the bats brain is damaged it can invalidate the tests because they have to cap take the bat cut the bats head off and then do its flora scope it to see if it’s going to have a positive staining. OK. So I do want to get into the details on that but the reality but you need to keep that in the back of your mind that bat needs be. So when does a bat need to be captured. Well here are some of those guidelines your state may be slightly different. No one to talk about that in a few minutes. But as a general rule any time a bat is in the living space not in the attic just because of bats in the attic doesn’t mean there’s been an exposure. OK. We’re talking about if if someone says you know they’re calling you up in the foreign a wildlife control consultant I found a bat in my bedroom I’m immediately thinking that there’s been an exposure. So if there’s a bat inside of a bedroom with someone sleeping and they wake up if the bat had access to someone who is sleeping there maybe they left their bedroom door open.
[00:16:58] If there was a child 8 years old or younger that was unattended that was in the same room with a bat. You assume the bat bit the person may say why Steven why are you assuming that the bat bit someone when you don’t have proof. Why is the bat guilty of a bite before being rather than innocent of a bite until proven guilty. Why do we flip. By putting the the guilt on the bat. Well. The reason for this change occurred because of some incidents that occurred in New York state in the 1990s. And so what happened was we had I believe it was 1995 a 13 year old girl began and this began to have neurological problems. She was she was perfectly healthy fine young girl and she started displaced neurological signs it’s having some difficulties so she was finally admitted to the hospital. Her condition got worse and worse and worse. And finally she died and so they didn’t autopsy on her and then the course they found out. Lo and behold she had rabies and it turns out as they began to investigate a little bit more thoroughly she had a bat in her room about several months earlier and what the state found. Was all of many cases of rabies exposures to bats. Most people did not know that they were bitten. There was no sign of them being bitten they say.
[00:18:30] Stephen how is that possible. Well bat teeth are extraordinarily thin and fine so if you know anything about medicine you’ll know that really fine Gage needles like think of the difference between the needle you got if you ever had an I.V. in the hospital versus someone who is taking insulin. The insulin needle is significantly smaller than the I.V. Needle you got in the hospital and some of these needles can get extraordinarily small. So for the practical purposes when a bat bites the bite the teeth marks are I’m going to call it needle like right. They’re really small. And what’s interesting is that people who have had. To have been bitten by by bats who were awake and were bitten by bats even when they knew where the bat bit and in a few hours they could not see any marks anymore. I had a friend of mine out of Colorado who was bitten he said yeah it hurt and he went to work went to the doctor and a couple of hours in a doctor’s using one these magnifying glasses. And he could point to the spot where he was bed. It’s not like he forgot where he got it. The doctor could not see any bite marks on his skin. And the reason for that is the bat teeth are just simply too small the skin heals up. So just because your client doesn’t think that they were bitten that’s irrelevant.
[00:20:01] In fact people that wake up in a room with a bat it’s often because they were bitten they just didn’t realize they.
[00:20:12] They have brush the bat may have landed on them and in their sleep They swatted away the bat tries to defend itself bite and then bang. And what some of the research is showing is that the rabies that’s associated with bats seems to do better in cooler environments which is which course makes sense because you know the surface of your skin isn’t that warm. And when the bad bites he’s not able to get that infection deep into your tissues to your body of those nerve endings so the virus has to be a bit have the ability of with microscopic amounts get to that nerve tissue and replicate.
So you say well why is the bat so interested in people that are sleeping.
Why does the bat care. All right. Well there was an interesting study that was done observe that this is a theory it’s not a fact that I’m not putting it out there as a fact. But the theory that says that bats that are sick. Are attracted to people or attracted to noises that are intermittent. Now think about that for a minute. You’re you’re in bed. What is an intermittent noise when you’re in bed snoring. Right. Of course. Snoring and so. The belief is is that bats that are ill are attracted to the snoring that has taken place and that’s where an exposure can occur. So let me try to re I’ve covered a lot of material here so let me try to rehash it again just to be sure everyone’s clear on this. If there’s a bat in the living space where people were sleeping. I’m telling you I’m a very conservative on this side. Your state may have different policies and you need to follow your state. But I’m very conservative because I’m always afraid of getting sued.
If there’s a bat in the living space that bat needs to be captured and you need to have a conversation with health officials about whether that bat needs to be tested for rabies.
[00:22:27] Now there are other protocols out there.
[00:22:29] So typically with the what the CDC says if there’s a bat in a room with someone sleeping in that person wakes up you assume the person was bitten. If the bat is in a room with a child that’s eight years old or younger there’s unattended with an adult that a child is assumed to have been bitten if there’s you know pets in rooms that’s another because there’s different protocol for pets and people. But typically with pets you assume there was some sort of interaction with the pet in the bat. Then you have to ask the question was the pet vaccinated or not. And that gets its own algorithm. If there was someone in a room with a bat who had diminished mental capacity whether they had Down’s syndrome or maybe they drank too much the previous night then you assume that person was bitten. So again the burden of proof is to prove that the person was not bitten in so it’s very hard to prove that. Right. So you assume the person was bitten until the proof turns out otherwise. Capture that bad. How do you capture that bad. Well. You would wait for the bat to land. So I tell people first of all make sure don’t let the bat out of your sight. Don’t open windows. You want to close as many doors and openings as possible to try to restrict the flight area of that bat. Have thick leather gloves get a Tupperware container wait for the bat to land on the wall go up cover the bat with the Tupperware container slide the lid between the bat and the Tupperware container trapping the bat inside. Of course you’re wearing your thick leather gloves. I like using welders gloves. But again you may have a pair of gloves that you like and then you take that down and then you start making phone calls. That is where that needs to be. But no tennis rackets don’t hit the bat and try to crush the bat do nothing to that bad that’s going to damage that bat’s brain and do not let that bat go.
[00:24:33] So where do you as a business owner go from here knowing about the concern about bats. Number one we don’t want to create panic. We do want to create fear. But this is serious. So what are you going to do. Well here’s my recommendations.
[00:24:49] Number one you need to create a market for my notes here.
[00:24:58] Excuse me.
The first thing you should do is develop a bat capture kit and so to repeat what that is.
You need a Tupperware container with a good seal bullied. I just used to use a Peanuts plant. The planters peanut jar. That’s what I like to use. They were had a nice wide mouth. They were fairly narrow I could hold them easily with my hand. And you know you choose what you like but something you need to build a hold it with one hand have good control of it. You want something that’s metal. I would prefer or something as thick plastic because you don’t want the butt biting through anything. Need some duct tape. You also need heavy gloves. Now there’s going to be your bat kit. Now the duct tape is so that when you capture the bat you can duct tape that lid down so that there’s no accident that that’s not going to be accidentally opened. You can also then sign that duct tape in case you know what time it was captured and that sort of thing. But you want to make sure that that lid doesn’t just accidentally fall off. Step to contact your local health department or state health department and you need to ask them.
[00:26:11] Maybe it’s the state epidemiologist. It could be the state rabies lab you need to find out. What the policies are what the procedures are in your state for handling potential. Rabies exposures. Now you need to get the information for all rabies exposures even. But if I excite doubt they have a separate one for bats but they might find out what that is. Now typically what that will involved it will involved an algorithm that the state uses to determine whether the bats need to be tested or the animal needs to be tested. You need to obtain that not because not that you’re going to be interviewing the client. It’s not I’m not encouraging to encourage you to do this is not your job to make the determination whether your client was. Was exposed or not. I think it’s important for you to have that information so that you can understand what that process is. But you should not be getting in between your client and the health officials. That is not your job and I think you and I’m not a lawyer but I think you’re putting yourself at significant legal jeopardy doing that but you need to be familiar with it.
[00:27:31] You need to find out if there’s paperwork involved with that you need to fill out to have that that tested. So you’ll be with the client perhaps you’ll run to find out what the emergency phone numbers are you want to find out what the main phone numbers are. Who does. Who do you call if you have a bat in your possession. Who do you call to have that bat tested and who’s going to decide whether that bat is to be tested. Some states have as a function of taxes that if there is if the health department determines that there was a positive that there was an exposure many times the state through its taxing will pay for the testing on its own so there’ll be no additional cost to the client. Those of you know listening to me know that I hate the word free because it’s often a lie that’s perpetrated by politicians who want to convince stupid voters to vote for them.
[00:28:28] Ok. There’s nothing free in government. The difference is this this would be paid for by ordinary taxes. So you don’t have to pay for it again. You need to find out what that policy is.
[00:28:42] Who do you call. Do you have to bring the animal to the local vet to have it prepared. Are you allowed to prepare it. How should it be prepared. Find out how do you get that back to the proper place where it needs to go. When I was in Massachusetts the policy was basically very simple. We would I would make some phone calls. They would decide that the bat needed to be tested or not and if they did then the bat I could hand the container over to the family the family could then bring it to the vet or sometimes I brought it to the place where it would be prepared and shipped off to the rabies lab. You need to find out what that process is and make sure you get the regular day. No.
[00:29:27] And the emergency number because these types of incidences often occur outside of normal business hours and needed to know how to go about things after hours. Now I’m putting some urgency in this. The fact of the matter is is that there’s no it’s rabies exposures are an urgency but not an emergency. So just because there’s a couple of days you’re waiting doesn’t mean everything yet person has to be running to the emergency room and all that. People can wait for the results of testing that often only takes a few days. The same way that you can wait a day or so if there’s a if there’s some sort of delay. What you don’t want to do. Typically your state may be different but that’s what you want to ask. You don’t want to freeze the bat often. If you if they they may ask you to kill it in a way that doesn’t harm the brain and you would then maybe refrigerated or keep it cool until it can be tested in situations where it would take an extended amount of time to get to the lab. There may be a need to freeze it. But that is quite a conversation you’re going to have. You want to be as you want to have a good clear understanding get all the paperwork that you need so that you’re not hunting around for it when the pressure is on with the client.
What do you do if you haven’t captured the bat.
[00:30:54] That’s a decision between the client and the health their health professionals to make a determination as to whether or not that family needs rape. Preventative rabies shots. Ultimately you can see this is going to be a highly stressful situation for your client. Rabies shots can be very expensive so it’s imperative that you try to capture that bat or bat if there’s more than one could be. Typically no but often sometimes it could be you have to be sure you capture this bat because if the bat turns out to be negative you have saved your client thousands of dollars. But if you accidentally or purposely let that bat loose without authorization without that interview being done with the with the health department you may have cost that family thousands of dollars in rabies shots. Now there are situations when the health department or health officials in consultation with your client determine that there was no exposure in those situations. I would encourage you to have these types of things in writing. You can then release the bat
[00:32:16] Outside always release it on high in a tree or some sort of object that’s don’t fly well from the ground. Putting a bat on the ground just makes it vulnerable to other predators making risking another potential exposure or another possible exposure.
[00:32:37] So you want to go to the tree and really put the bat up on the tree and do the exact opposite reverse the order of things that you did when you captured the bat on the wall but again make sure you have all of your documents signed because I can just tell you People’s memories change when you leave the property. Make sure you have everything written out to the end degree. I can’t emphasize this enough when I was in business doing this sort of thing. I had paperwork on what rabies was rabies exposures and I would hand that to the client. I would then record in my paperwork client received this rabies dog. These were publications that not that I created. These were publications created by our state states health department and wildlife agencies.
[00:33:36] And I would hand that and then recorded on my contract that the patient was signing. And I also had paperwork from the health department that I could help fill out for the client if there was a potential exposure that we needed to have that bat tested for. And this this is where your skills about handling client fear client stress you’re under stress because this can be take some time on the scene that you don’t want. You know we have another client probably yelling actually get down the road.
[00:34:09] This is not a situation that you want to screw up because we’re dealing with people’s lives here and we’re dealing with thousands of dollars if there’s a mistake. So don’t let that happen make the phone call to the health department before you have your first bad call
[00:34:29] Before you have your first rabies potential incident. Find out what the processes are for your state. Be very very clear about this before you need to make before you have that first encounter. It will save you an enormous amount of headache down the road and really help your clients protect their own health the health of their children the health their families and save them potentially thousands of dollars. Kind of beat this horse pretty hard here and I. But this is serious and I think that I’ve I’ve met Wildlife Control opera at least one perhaps more.
[00:35:07] At least one where they didn’t do it right.
[00:35:12] And it seems that they they won they got away with it. There were that bad probably there may not.
[00:35:17] Person didn’t get bid or there wasn’t exposure but they screwed it up and they dodged a bullet on that. You may not dodge that bullet and it may cost someone’s life or big cost your business in the lawsuit and the whole thing. We don’t want that to happen that inside living space that bad things be captured in a manner that doesn’t damage its brain contact health officials find out
[00:35:44] If that bat needs to be tested. Was there an exposure. Let the Health Department health officials make that determination. Learn about the process
[00:35:55] Because health officials can make mistakes too. But. Have to understand that algorithm. Find out what that process is protect yourself and protect your client. Don’t let a bad loose. That’s found in living space. Unless you have clear names signatures information that there were no exposures in the determination from health officials. Was that there was no exposure. Sometimes even when states determine state health officials determined that there was no exposure
[00:36:42] Sometimes your client still wants the bat tested. That’s something you need to investigate. There may be a charge for that. Sometimes it’s not very much. I think when I was in Nebraska the cost was forty five sixty five dollars plus shipping. So we’re not talking about a huge amount of money. You need to learn about that as well. That’s because sometimes your clients can get quite nervous and they want to have confirmation that that bat wasn’t wasn’t rabid even when the state said there was no exposure you did to determine how you’re going to handle that as well and what type of fees you’re going to institute for handling that sort of thing or whether your client can even do it in the first place. So that is something for you to also consider. Ultimately rabies a serious thankfully we have ways of preventing rabies infections.
[00:37:38] Make sure you are on the positive side of protecting your client health and for their family as well as we don’t want to be sure we want to be sure we’re not killing bats unnecessarily just because someone saw a bat fly by outside and thought they were exposed for we’re dealing with bats inside of living spaces or where there was a real real potential of an encounter with that bat.
[00:38:05] I hope you found that helpful it’s complicated. It’s subtle
[00:38:11] Make sure you get that information read it carefully follow it religiously Don’t be afraid to call for help with your health department should you encounter this in the field do this in advance though before you have a situation. My name is Stephen Vantassel wildlife control consultant. Have a great day. Back to you Frank.