BLOG: In case of a batty situation

Katherine Ranzenberger
York Dispatch

It's been nearly a year since I was rudely awakened by a fuzzy creature screeching in my ear. This time, though, it wasn't my cat begging for food.

My poor cat at the vet after getting a booster rabies vaccine.

Let me set the scene for you: It's 4 a.m., late June in Mid-Michigan. The moon was out, and my windows were open to circulate some air in my 200-square-foot apartment in my college town.

Sadly, the top of my double hung windows was not covered by a screen.

Enter: the bat.

In this photo taken Tuesday, May 24, 2016 batt reacher Jackie Beck examines a bat she caught outside Vogel Sate Park near Blairsville, Ga. Georgia's bat population appears headed for the same decimation of the animals experienced by eastern states. Georgia researchers, though, could produce a treatment that helps other states avoid the same fate. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

The poor little critter was just as scared as I was that early morning.

Max, my Siamese cat, was chasing the thing around the room, trying his hardest to get the tasty treat. I cowered under my blanket, phone in hand calling the police and my landlord to figure out what the heck had happened and what I needed to do.

After talking to a dispatcher, I scooped up Max and trapped him in the shower behind a glass door — the only door in the entire apartment. I then captured the bat and took the confused little thing outside, letting it leap off into the early morning light. He or she probably needed some more bugs and some sleep. I, on the other hand, had to get myself to the hospital.

See, when you wake up with a bat in your bedroom, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention considers you "exposed" to rabies. Animals, especially bats, foxes and raccoons, can carry the deadly virus.

If there's a bat in your room or in your child's room, you must capture it, euthanize it and then test it for rabies. The only way to test for rabies is via brain tissue.

The dirty hippie in me had so many issues with this. First, I know white-nose syndrome is killing too many North American bats. Researchers have confirmed that a fungus is responsible for white-nose syndrome, according to the National Wildlife Health Center.

Second, I can't in good conscience kill anything. I can't even kill a spider! I know it's just chilling there, doing its own thing like Mom Nature wanted. Bats are the same thing! I mean, just look at that cute, fuzzy face.

So when the doctors at the hospital and even my cat's veterinarian said I had done something wrong, I knew I was in for a world of pain.

Nine shots later, I'm happy to report I am still rabies free. My nurse, who was extremely helpful in the entire situation, said, "You'll be completely immune. Go have a bat party!" (Note, I still have not had said bat party.)

However, these moments make you realize the importance of knowing what to do in that situation. An elderly woman in the State of Wyoming recently was exposed just like I was, and had no idea what to do.

If a bat wakes you up, trap it and keep it trapped. Take it to a vet to get it euthanized and tested. Then, talk to your doctor and figure out the best way to handle the situation. Make sure your pets are up to date on their vaccinations as well. (Poor Max had to get a booster on his shot, but the little guy survived!)

Check for how the bat gained entrance. In my case, it likely came through a partially open window without a screen.

Rabies is an awful virus. Luckily, the last diagnosed human case in Pennsylvania was in 1984. But that doesn't mean it can't happen again. More than 350 animals across the Commonwealth are diagnosed with rabies every year, according to the Department of Health.

Avoid those. Know to trap the bat and get it tested. Save yourself the pain of rabies shots.

Even a year later, I'm still resisting the urge to fight crime.

— Reach Katherine Ranzenberger at kranzenberger@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter at @YDKatherine. Follow Yourk Health on Facebook