By Forrest Saunders, Multimedia Journalist - email
Jim Jensen points out where Trinity Lutheran's bats are hiding: the bell tower.
SIOUX CITY, Iowa (KTIV) -
This time of year, more of us are seeing bats. And that means the risk of rabies is increasing. In fact, experts say a bat could bite you and you might not even know it.
Trinity Lutheran Church member Jim Jensen isn't crazy, he just has bats in his belfry.
"I've been a member since 1966, at least since then," said Jensen.
Hard to spot one, but you don't have to be a detective to know they're around.
"We never really see the bats themselves, we just see the 'evidence' of them," said Jensen.
That's right, guano. Parishioners can find it on pews, and banisters. So bad, it's prompted the church to go on the defecation defensive.
"During the week, when there is no one here, we use plastic sheeting to cover the alter, the handbell table, the things that could be damaged," said Jensen.
But, bat scat is the least of the Iowa Department of Public Health's worries. They say, this time of year, they get more "bat-related rabies calls." Officials blame migration.
"The young bat pups are becoming mobile and traveling. And so, that's probably why we are having more human interaction," said IDPH Veterinarian Dr. Ann Garvey.
So far this year, 11 rabid bats have been reported across the state. Two in Sioux County. Garvey says that's about average. But she warns, bat bites can be undetectable to the naked-eye. So, if you've come in physical contact with one, or slept while one was in the room, contact your health care provider. Garvey says rabies is a serious matter.
"Almost 100% fatal, but it is almost 100% preventable. So it's important if you do have exposure to a bat or another mammal, that you talk to your health care provider," said Dr. Garvey.
Trinity has noise makers to keep the bats at bay. Jensen says they also keep an eye out for any of the animals acting strange. He says he's not too worried about the bats or their bite, in fact, he likes them.
"They really don't bother me at all. As long as we know they are safe and not causing too much discomfort for people," said Jensen.
So you have a bat in your house. What do you do? State officials say: "it's a misconception that you cannot legally kill bats in homes." They say: "you may kill it in order to have it tested for rabies."
Officials at Siouxland District Health say give them a call if you've think you've been bit. They'll discuss your chances of exposure. Their number is 800-587-3005.
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