Keep the Bats Out to Prevent Rabies

Poughkeepsie…The Dutchess County Department of Behavioral & Community Health (DBCH) reports a significant increase in the number of bats found inside homes with window air conditioning units. While bats are gentle and not aggressive, they may carry and transmit diseases, namely rabies.
In 2018, reports to DBCH of potential exposure to rabies have increased 18 percent, and the number of bats submitted for testing is 61 percent higher compared to the same time period in 2017.

DBCH Commissioner A. K. Vaidian, MD, MPH said, “I strongly encourage all residents to inspect their air conditioning units. It is important that the gaps created when installing an air conditioner are sealed properly to keep bats out, and that the top sash hasn’t slid down. Carefully seal around window air conditioners, and especially between the window sashes, with foam, fabric, or other suitable material to prevent bats from gaining entry.”

Dr. Vaidian said during this time of year, with many young bats, the bat population increases markedly. Due to their small size, bats can easily squeeze into very small gaps, as little as a half inch, such as in between the upper and lower window sashes. The Department recommends the following steps to prevent bats from entering your home:

  • When a window is opened to install an air conditioner, it creates a gap between the upper and lower window sashes.  Check that no gaps exist on the sides and bottom of the unit.  Bats may gain entry to your house through these gaps. Check to make sure the upper window sash stays in place.  Brace it up if needed.
  • Be sure open windows have a tight-fitting and intact screen. Ensure entry doors have a self-closing screen door.
  • When placing a fan in a window, be sure the screen remains in place.
  • Keep garage doors and other doors closed when not in use.
  • Make sure chimney dampers are closed. Seal all unused openings from the house into the chimney.
  • Be sure access points to areas such as attics, basements, and crawlspaces, are kept closed with tight-fitting doors.

For more information on rabies, including what to do if you find a bat in your home, visit DutchessNY.gov/Rabies.