Threats to hospital health standards of the flying variety have been making news recently. Back in February, we detailed the concern over pigeon droppings which had contributed to multiple deaths in a Scottish hospital. Pigeons had gained access to a mechanical room which then sent contaminated air into other areas of the hospital. Now, we bring you bats in American hospitals!
Bats may not be the first thing we think of when considering hospital infestations but they are a unique problem in healthcare settings. Recently in Iowa bats have become such an issue, hospital administration staff sent out an alert to patients and staff covering what to do when encountering bats. The alert from University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics advised anyone who came across a dead or living bat to not touch the bat but to try to contain it in order to prevent migration to other patient centered areas.
Bat infestation in a healthcare setting is not unheard of and is a serious health threat. Seldom used areas like the top of a remote stairwell can serve as a perfect perch for bats. A bat infestation at a North Carolina Hospital actually forced the hospital to be evacuated and closed most of the hospital for a short time. In 2015 more than 100 bats were found in a Kansas VA Hospital.
Why Are Bats a Health Hazard?
The most well known concern for bats is rabies. While only about 1% of bats actually have rabies humans should still avoid contact with them. If bitten by a bat seek immediate medical attention.
Also of concern are roosting nests and the excrement produced. Called guano, droppings carry fungal spores that can cause a lung disease known as histoplasmosis. Hospitals need to be aware that bat droppings could cause a similar situation to the pigeons if exposed to ventilation systems. If an infestation is not quickly remedied the droppings can slowly turn to dust making air transport even easier.
Signs of Infestation
You may smell an infestation before you see one. Enough bats urinating can cause a strong ammonia like smell which can range from unpleasant to unbearable. Another sign to look for are frequent flights near dusk or dawn near rooftops or easements. Seeing a bat at this time is not unusual, but seeing the same flight multiple times in the same place could indicate bats have taken up residence. Also scan for what look like grease marks in unusual locations of the building. When bats come in and out of an area they leave residue behind as the enter and exit.
How to Handle an Infestation
In a word: professionally. Never handle bats dead or alive, call exterminators who can take rabies preventing measures. Additionally, once the actual infestation is clear call remediation professionals qualified in bio hazardous removal to prevent exposure to the hazardous byproducts of bat droppings. Further complicating the situation, bats and/or certain types of bats are a protected species in certain states and eradication could run afoul of environmental laws if not done by a trained professional.
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