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Experts Say Bats Carry Rabies Risk

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WENDELL — Nine children in Wendell are being treated for rabies after playing with baby bats.

Few bats have rabies, but wildlife experts say, as a rule, you should never handle a bat.

For most people, bats conjure up visions of bloodsucking vampires. In reality, they are usually harmless.

Suzanne Cecil recently discovered a bat colony living in her home.

"I've had bats in the house before that I've caught and released. I'm not afraid of them, but you just have to be careful," said Cecil.

If you have bats in your house, you are probably going to find them in the attic. They like it up there because it's warm and dark.

This is the time of year when bats give birth and look for a spot to raise their young.

Bob Jankowski helps homeowners like Cecil get rid of bats. After the bats leave at night, Jankowski covers up openings to prevent them from returning. He also helps homeowners get over their fear.

"People have a phobia about bats. To some people, it's the most terrifying experience of their life to have a bat in their attic or in their living area," said Jankowski.

"They play a big, important ecological role," said Mary Kay Clark, mammal curator for the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences.

Clark says we need bats because they eat insects, including mosquitos.

"The best policy is not to ever touch a wild animal, including bats," said Clark.

Cecil wants the bats out but does not want them to be homeless. So, she is putting up a bat house in her yard.

People who remove bats will wait until July 15. That is the time when the babies are ready to fly on their own.

If you do get bitten by a bat, call your doctor and your local animal control office.

TheCenters for Disease Controlmonitors the infestation of rabies across the country.

In 1997, raccoons were responsible for more than half of the reported rabies cases.

More than 3,000 skunks, bats and foxes were found with the disease. There were more than twice as many cats as dogs with rabies. Cattle were also responsible for a small percentage of the cases.


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