Vet Talk

Bat on a Plane…What to Do?

The bat was caught with a cup and a book, and locked in the cabin bathroom

September 16, 2019 (published)
Illustration courtesy of Depositphotos

It wasn’t a snake and Samuel L. Jackson (presumably) wasn’t there to save the day, but Spirit Airlines passengers on a recent flight had to deal with an unwanted stowaway. During a flight from Charlotte to Newark, a bat started flying around the cabin of the Spirit Airlines aircraft. It likely flew into the plane through an open cabin door at some point and hid out for a while, emerging halfway through the flight. The bat was likely as distressed as the people by its presence in that abnormal, confined space, so it flew around for a while, eventually being caught with a cup and a book, and locked away in a bathroom.

That’s a pretty good way to handle it if you can catch the bat without being bitten. Otherwise, leaving the bat alone makes the most sense, as it’s unlikely to land on or bite anyone, but the passengers would probably have been less impressed with that approach.

Upon landing, the bat was taken away by animal control.  It was presumably euthanized since releasing wildlife well away from where they originated is not commonly done, particularly due to disease transmission risks.

When bats are involved, rabies obviously gets discussed as bats are a prime source of rabies exposure in North America. But, what’s the risk?

  • For rabies to be a concern, the bat has to be rabid (prevalence is usually only up to a few percent in any given bat population) and you have to get bitten (largely avoidable). Aerosol exposure (breathing in rabies virus) is a concern is densely populated bat caves, but I can’t see a single bat (if it was infected) in a space that size, with that exceptional ventilation that is present on modern airplanes, posing any plausible risk.

Realistically, your biggest health risk is probably the concussion you might get from your neighbour who’s freaking out and frantically swinging his laptop.

And speaking of rabies….

Things not to do with Raccoons

I’ll hold back and just classify this as “not a great idea.”

At least 21 people in Macon, GA, are undergoing rabies post-exposure prophylaxis after having contact with a rabid raccoon.

How do that many people get exposed to a single raccoon?

Step 1: Take a wild raccoon and try to make it into a pet.

  • Bad idea and illegal in most places (including Ontario).

Step 2: Take it to a “Raccoon or kitten event” (whatever that is) where the public gets to play with it.

  • That’s it.  But should be followed up by…

Step 3: Talk to your insurance company because tens (or hundreds) of thousands of dollars of treatment may be required.

Thirty-seven (37) people who visited the event had been contacted at last report, and 33 were considered potentially exposed to rabies through contact with this raccoon. Twenty-one (21) are undergoing post-exposure prophylaxis so far, and presumably (hopefully) the rest will be treated soon. That’s why standard guidelines say that rabies reservoir species like raccoons should never be used for public contact events.  Wildlife should be left in the wild.  

Reprinted with permission from Worms and Germs Blog.

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