August is generally the busiest month of the year when it comes to bats making their way inside homes. This year, it’s extra busy in one Hudson Valley county, while in another, they’re seeing more residents in need of rabies treatments.
Last week alone, 51 bats were brought to Westchester County’s health department for testing because they were found in homes. That’s up from 30 during the same time period last year. Also, during the first two weeks of August, 16 people had to start preventive rabies treatment because they were exposed to a bat but did not catch the bat so it could be tested for rabies.
Carl Herzog is wildlife biologist with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. He says in contrast with, say, Westchester County, state numbers are down.
He says the numbers are down by roughly 50 percent from this time in 2012. He says, in the case of Westchester, it’s possible local awareness about rabies can lead to increased reporting and bringing in bats for testing.
He says now is the time of year when baby bats are flying around, and they often fly into people’s homes. Meanwhile, the usual, seasonal uptick in the number of bats found in Putnam County homes has caused increased rabies treatments because the bats were not captured. It must then be assumed the person exposed to the bat was exposed to rabies. Marianne Burdick is associate public health sanitarian with the Putnam County Department of Health.
She says, generally, the bat population has been decreasing.
For each of the past five years, about 148 Westchester residents have required rabies treatment after being exposed to bats that could not be caught for testing. In most cases, treatment could have been avoided if the bat had been caught and tested for rabies. Putnam’s health commissioner says less than 2 percent of bats have rabies.