I’m constantly amazed at what some people do with bats. Bats are a leading cause of human rabies exposure in North America.  Despite extensive efforts to educate people about the importance of avoiding contact with bats, some people still either don’t know or don’t take these warnings seriously.

The latest bizarre example of stupid things done with bats occurred in Montana, where a parent brought a dead bat to a school and let young children (kindergarten and grade 5 students) touch it. Touching a bat in itself is a bad idea, let alone touching one that has died of unknown causes and encouraging kids to touch it. The teachers apparently had no objections to this activity. The parent who brought the bat had the students use an alcohol hand sanitizer after touching the creature, but it is still very irresponsible for someone to encourage children to touch a high-risk animal, regardless of what is done after. I’m sure the parents of the children didn’t know beforehand, and certainly some were no doubt very upset when they found out about the incident (or livid would be a better description, if it was my kids that were involved). School officials did not find out about the dead bat until after its little visit, at which time the local and state public health authorities were contacted. The bat was tested and was positive for rabies.

Overall, the risk of rabies transmission is probably low in this case, but not zero.  It has therefore been recommended that the 80 students that may have touched the bat be given post-exposure rabies shots, which may cost up to $800 per child!. Another ten children may have touched the bat at a soccer practice – for a dead bat, it sure covered a lot of ground!

  • Never touch a bat, dead or alive.  Obviously, if you shouldn’t touch a bat, you shouldn’t encourage kids to do so either!
  • Unstructured and unapproved contact with animals in classrooms should be prevented. Animals can be good educational tools, but only if student and animal health and welfare are properly addressed.

More information on Rabies is available on the Worms & Germs Resources page.