Bats are very important to our environment. They disperse fruit seeds, pollinate plants, and eat tons of insects. Bat droppings are an excellent natural fertilizer providing nutrients for many living things. More than 15 species of bats live in Washington.
Bats are the only known source of rabies in Washington state. The vast majority of bats don’t have rabies. Rabies is a preventable disease caused by a virus and is transmitted through contact with the saliva of an infected animal when that animal bites or scratches a person or another animal. Public Health should be contacted if a person or pet has been bitten or scratched by a bat, a person has handled a bat with bare hands, a person wakes up to find a bat in the room they had been sleeping in, or when a bat is found in the room of an unattended small child, an intoxicated or mentally incapacitated person, or a pet. Do not release a bat that might have exposed a person or a pet – it may be needed for rabies testing. Post-exposure preventive treatment (i.e. rabies immune globulin and rabies vaccinations) of a person after exposure to the virus is highly effective in preventing rabies infection.
Bat droppings may have fungal spores called Histoplasma which can cause a lung infection if inhaled. In the US, Histoplasma are mainly in the central and eastern states, and no cases of histoplasmosis have ever been reported in King County. People who have weakened immune systems, infants, and older adults are at higher risk for severe infection if exposed. For cleaning up large amounts of bat droppings, you should consider hiring a professional company that specializes in the removal of hazardous waste.