“Most cases of rabies in Illinois are almost always
found in bats,” said IDPH Director Nirav D. Shah, M.D., J.D. “You
can’t tell just by looking at a bat if it has rabies so it’s
important to avoid handling bats and to make sure your home has no
openings where bats can come in.”
Rabies is a virus that affects the nervous system.
People can get rabies after being bitten by an infected animal.
Rabies can also be contracted when saliva from a rabid animal gets
directly into a person’s eyes, nose, mouth, or a wound. People
usually know when they have been bitten by a bat, but bats have very
small teeth and the bite mark may not be easy to see. If you find
yourself in close proximity to a bat and are not sure if you were
exposed, for example – you wake up and find a bat in your room, do
not kill or release the bat before calling your doctor or local
health department to help determine if you could have been exposed
to rabies and need preventive treatment. If the bat is available
for testing and test results are negative, preventive treatment is
The early symptoms of rabies in people are similar to
that of many other illnesses, including fever, headache, and general
weakness or discomfort. As the disease progresses, more specific
symptoms appear and may include insomnia, anxiety, confusion, slight
or partial paralysis, excitation, and hallucinations. Death usually
occurs within days of the onset of these symptoms. If you have been
bitten by any animal, seek immediate medical attention. Rabies
preventive treatment, if needed, must begin quickly.
An animal does not have to be aggressive or exhibit
other symptoms to have rabies. Changes in any animal’s normal
behavior can be early signs of rabies. A bat that is active during
the day, found on the ground, or is unable to fly is more likely
than others to be rabid. Such bats are often easily approached, but
should never be handled.
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The following tips can help prevent the spread of
Keep vaccinations up-to-date for all dogs, cats,
ferrets, and other animals you own. If your pet is exposed to a
rabid animal, contact your veterinarian
Do not touch, feed, or unintentionally attract
wild animals with open garbage cans or litter.
Never adopt wild animals or bring them into your
home. Do not try to nurse sick, wild animals to health. Call
animal control or an animal rescue agency for assistance.
Teach children never to handle unfamiliar
animals, wild or domestic, even if they appear friendly. “Love
your own, leave other animals alone” is a good principle for
children to learn to reduce the risk of exposures to rabid
Maintain homes and other buildings so bats cannot
If a bat is in your home, do not release the bat
outdoors until after speaking with animal control or public health
After consulting with animal control or public health
officials, you may need to capture the bat for rabies testing to
determine if you need preventive treatment.
Steps you can take to capture the bat are:
When the bat lands, approach it slowly, while
wearing gloves, and place a box or coffee can over it.
Slide a piece of cardboard under the container to
trap the bat inside.
Tape the cardboard to the container securely, and
punch small holes in the cardboard, allowing the bat to breathe.
For more information about keeping bats out of your
home, check out the Bats
and Bat Exclusion page on
[Illinois Department of Public