Strategies to minimize harm and maximize self-care.
Animal bites & bat exposure
Animal bites and bat exposures can lead to serious infections, including skin infections and rabies. Animal bites can and should be reported by calling Public Health Madison & Dane County Animal Services Officers at 608-267-1989. If an Animal Services officer is not on duty, contact Madison Police dispatch at 608-255-2345.
If possible and safe to do so, the animal should be contained and Animal Control should be contacted immediately for evaluation or testing.
If you are bitten, wash the area with soap and water as soon as possible. Apply pressure to stop bleeding and an ice pack to help with swelling. If the skin is broken, medical care is generally recommended. If the wound is minor AND the animal is known to have current rabies vaccination, keep the wound clean and covered and watch for signs of infection, such as increasing redness, swelling, pain, pus, or fevers. If signs of infection develop, seek medical attention right away. Please have information available such as where and when the bite occurred, the type of animal, if the animal was a stray, the animal’s behavior at the time of the attack, and personal tetanus and rabies vaccination history.
Bats pose a unique health risk due to high level of rabies within the bat population and cases of transmission of rabies when no bite or scratch wounds are visible. For these reasons, a rabies exposure is considered feasible in the following situations:
- A person is bitten or scratched by a bat
- A sleeping individual wakes to find a bat in the same room
- A young child is found alone or unobserved in a room with a bat
Call UHS to speak with the nursing staff if there are any bat exposure concerns. Ideally, the bat should be collected and submitted to the Department of Public Health for testing, as this can sometimes eliminate the need for immunizations.