Bat activity in New Jersey begins in the spring, when bats break hibernation, and continues through the fall when they return to hibernation. Bites and other potential rabies exposures from bats pose a challenge to both public health officials and medical care providers, because bat bites may be less severe, heal rapidly and are therefore, more difficult to find or recognize than bites inflicted by larger mammals.
To assist Health Officers with situations involving suspect rabid bats or potential bat exposures, the New Jersey Department of Health (NJDOH), Infectious and Zoonotic Disease Program (IZDP), has updated their guidance document titled "Guide to Proper Handling of Bat Exposures" (attached).
We would like to share this information with all physicians, veterinarians, police officers, police dispatchers, animal control officers and others in our 21 municipalities who may respond to potential rabies situations involving bats or residents who may find bats in their residence. We specifically are focusing on the State’s procedures for police and animal control officers, particularly regarding the capturing of bats for rabies testing when they have been in bedrooms where people were sleeping.
The New Jersey Department of Health would like to stress that only a small number of bats are infected with rabies and that human attacks by bats are uncommon. Healthy bats are not aggressive, unless picked-up or cornered, but bats infected with rabies may have problems flying and might be aggressive or attempt to bite people or other animals. We encourage residents with questions to contact their local health department or animal control officer with questions.
Additional information on rabies, including rabies specimen collection and submission to the Rabies Laboratory for testing, is available on the NJDOH website: http://www.state.nj.us/health/cd/rabies/techinfo.shtml.