Tonawanda News — A Kenmore girl, Madeleine Bordeleau, 11, woke up to a bat in her room Monday morning around 5 a.m. She screamed, immediately jumped out of bed and rushed into her parents’ room.
“I told her there wasn’t anything in there,” her father Christopher Bordeleau said. “I went in there to show her and prove it, and there it was — a bat flying around the room.”
Christopher attempted to get the bat out of the room by opening the window, but the bat got caught between Madeleine’s bed and the wall.
“I left the room because I didn’t know how to get it out,” Christopher said. “My wife got the vacuum cleaner and I used the crevice tool extension to suck up the bat. It was still alive and making a lot of noise.”
Christopher brought the tool over to the window, and the bat escaped and flew away from their Euclid Avenue home.
Although Madeleine didn’t have any visible bites, she will still have to receive a rabies shot. Because a bat’s bite marks are often small, the Erie County Health Department recommends people sleeping, young children, intoxicated individuals or those with mental disabilities should get a shot when a bat encounter occurs — unless the bat is captured and tests negative for rabies.
Although rabies is 100 percent deadly once symptoms occur, the shot is 100 percent effective at preventing onset of the disease, according to the Erie County Health Department. About 4 percent of bats tested have rabies and 74 captured bats tested positive between 1998 and 2008. In that same period, 174 raccoons and 26 skunks tested positive, as well.
Kenmore Animal Control Officer Thomas Pilat said his office is getting about one or two calls a day concerning bats — a figure he thinks is normal for this time of year.
“Today we did have four. The majority of them are just calls about bats being in the house,” Pilat said. “Although there was a woman who was bitten today. She was trying to get the bat with the vacuum, and it bit her. If she wasn’t bothering it, it probably wouldn’t have done that.”
Erie County Health Commissioner Dr. Gale Burstein said this is the peak time for bat activity.
“It’s hot, especially this summer. Usually, they hide out in attics, but they are trying to get out and fly around,” Burstein said. “So make sure your doors and windows have screens that are shut, and that your chimney’s flue is shut and your attic is secure.”
The Erie County Health Department does urge residents to attempt to catch the bats and submit them for testing to control the spread of rabies. To do so, contact Animal Control or a local business to catch the bat. The Health Department’s website also has safe steps to capture the bat on your own by using a coffee can, or another hard sided container, if professional help is not available. They advise not using a rag and keeping the skull intact for testing purposes.
“Try to capture the bat if you are sleeping or if it’s someone who can’t communicate with you,” Burstein said. “Give the health department a call and we send it for testing free of charge. That can determine whether you (need a rabies shot). We try to save the trouble of having to get one.”
Burstein also warned about the dangers of pets being infected. The Health Department offers free rabies immunizations six times a year and the next one is Sept. 5 at the Tonawanda SPCA on Ensminger Road.
To submit a bat for testing, call the Erie County Health Department at 961-6800 during business hours or 961-7898 after hours.Contact reporter Jessica Bagley at 693-1000, ext. 4150.