A Bite in the Night

Jo Ann Serota, MSN, RN, CPNP

J Pediatr Health Care. 2006;20(6):407, 431-432. 

In This Article

Introduction and Case Study Questions


On a busy Monday morning in August, a parent called the office reporting that there was a live bat in her daughter´s bedroom. This was the third phone call about bats in a house that day. It just so happens that summertime is roosting time for most species of bats. Bats give birth once a year and the gestational period of a bat is relatively long, ranging from 40 days to 8 months. Most bats are born in nursery roosts and these roosts can be located in any dark, warm area. A home´s attic and eaves are comfortable, easily accessible birthing roosts. In the United States, about 40% of native bats are under the federal Endangered Species Act.

Case Study Questions

  1. What is incidence of rabies in the United States?

  2. What is the clinical course of rabies?

  3. What is the current treatment of rabies?

  4. What preventative measures can families take to prevent bats from entering their home?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2006),[1] the mere presence of a bat in a home, in the same room with household members unsure of exposure, post-exposure treatment should begin. The local health department and primary care provider should be notified as soon as possible. The bat should be confined and animal control should be notified for removal and observation for at least 10 days. People cannot get rabies from observing bats in the wild, attics, and caves or at a distance. Also, touching bat urine, blood, feces, or the bat itself does not lead to rabies infection. Although, it is advised never to touch a bat!

I scheduled an appointment for the child to be seen that morning and told the mom to keep the child out of her bedroom, close the door, and call the local health department about removal of the bat.

The child was a 4-year-old female in no apparent distress. She was afebrile; vital signs were normal. The physical exam was within normal limits except for two small puncture wounds about 1 cm apart on her upper right shoulder.

The site was non-erythematous, non-tender, and without drainage. The child was not in any discomfort from the bite. The mother had thoroughly cleansed the site with soap and water after she discovered the bite.

This was the first time one of our patients had a bat bite. It opened a Pandora´s Box of unknowns and I would like to share with you what we learned from the experience.


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