Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.
Mary D. Nettleman, MD, MS, MACP is the Chair of the Department of Medicine at Michigan State University. She is a graduate of Vanderbilt Medical School, and completed her residency in Internal Medicine and a fellowship in Infectious Diseases at Indiana University.
When bitten by an animal, you should always care for the
wound immediately by washing it out with soap, water, and some sort of
commercial antiseptic iodine solution, if available. This will help kill the common bacteria that may be passed by the bite but also has been shown to decrease the likelihood of transmission of the rabies virus, should the animal be rabid.
If the animal is a pet, get the owner's name,
address, and phone number, if possible. This information will aid the local public health authorities as they monitor the animal.
If the animal is a wild animal, or stray dog or cat, contact the local animal-control authorities (your local humane society or city or county public health office) immediately. They will attempt to safely capture the animal for examination. The victim or other bystanders should not attempt to capture or subdue the animal. This might lead to further bites or exposures.
If the animal is a bat, and the exposure occurred in a building, the doors and windows should be shut in the room containing the bat after all other people are evacuated. If this cannot be done without risk of repeat exposure to the bat, then the most important thing is to minimize the chance of contact between that bat and other people. Once again, call local animal-control authorities, and they will capture the bat.
Bat exposures are different from any other animal. There does not necessarily have to be a detectable bat bite to constitute a significant exposure.
If a bat bite or direct contact cannot be ruled out, then there may have been a significant exposure, such as in the following circumstances:
A sleeping person awakens to find a bat in the room.
An adult sees a bat in the room of a previously unattended child, mentally disabled person, or intoxicated person.