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Bat Hiding in iPad Cover Bites Man, Giving Him Rabies Symptoms

A common vampire bat
A common vampire bat, Desmodus rotundus.

Bat gave older man a Rabies symptoms. today we learn that a man living in New Hampshire was bitten by a rabid bat. While it isn’t too terribly uncommon to hear of bats transferring rabies symptoms to humans, it is incredibly odd to hear of one hiding in an iPad cover. After all for the most part, bats are content to hang out in dark corners and areas like the underside of a bridge (think Congress Bridge in Austin, Texas). An iPad cover seems like the oddest, most inconvenient place for a bat to call home but this one did. Maybe he wasn’t thinking clearly because of the rabies symptoms?

86-year-old Roy Syvertson was in for quite an unpleasant shock when he sat down with his iPad last week. “I was going to check out the news and some other sites. You know, just kill a little time and relax,” Syvertson said. Everything went fine for the elderly man until he finished browsing the Internet after about an hour. “I closed the cover and felt a little sting. I wasn’t sure what happened at first; I hardly noticed the bite. Then I saw the bat emerge from my iPad. It was tucked between the cover and back of the device,” he told WMUR, an ABC affiliate. “I didn’t really want to let the bat go in my house, so I sort of squeezed him. I know he wasn’t very happy about that, but I also wasn’t very happy about being bit. I took him outside and put him out there.”

Syvertson expected the bat to be gone by the morning, but when he got up he was still there, right where the man had left him. He assumed that the bat was fine and had just taken a liking to the place. And since bats are nocturnal animals, Syvertson assumed the bat was just sleeping until it got darker. However when evening rolled around, he discovered that the bat had died. “I was immediately concerned. I know now that I should have been concerned before, but I didn’t think much of it at the time. I called the New Hampshire Department of Fish and Game immediately.” The department immediately encouraged Syvertson to take a trip to the hospital as they were concerned about rabies. 

The hospital began treating the man for rabies symptoms immediately while the New Hampshire Department of Fish and Game set to work to test the bat for rabies. In order to conduct the test, tissue from the animal’s brain must be taken. This requires the animal be dead or put to sleep. Luckily for both the department and the bat, it was already dead. The tests came back positive and the department wasted no time in calling Syvertson with the results. “I guess it was a good thing that I didn’t snuggle or cuddle with him,” he joked.

Luckily for Syvertson, he got to the hospital and started treatment with plenty of time to spare. “I feel fine and I should be good to go home in a few days. The shots were a little unpleasant, but it’s better than foaming at the mouth you know,” he said regarding his trip to the ER.

How did it get in there in the first place?

An Egyptian fruit bat carrying a fig

One of the biggest questions that both Syvertson and the rest of the world have is how the bat got into the iPad cover in the first place. “It’s a pretty tight fit,” Syvertson commented. “The bat is little and all, but the space is still pretty small. I don’t know how he managed to find it or why he decided to call it home, but he did.”

New Hampshire Department of Fish and Game and bat specialists, it’s unclear how the bat got into his home and how/why it decided to call the iPad cover its home. Syvertson jokes that the bat had his iPad’s password and that’s how he got in. Researchers suggest that the bat could have gotten in through an open window or door, or possibly even a crack or hole. “Bats are incredibly smart and they can fit in any number of tiny openings. If there’s so much as a gap, they can find their way in. It’s possible that there’s an opening somewhere on Syvertson’s house that gave the bat access to his home. As to why it picked the iPad and not somewhere else is beyond us. It could be that the creature wasn’t thinking clearly because of the disease or perhaps the iPad cover was the first source of protection it found,” researchers suggest.

Bat experts also say that Syvertson is lucky to have felt the bite. “Many times people don’t even feel the bat bite them because their teeth are so tiny and fine. This can lead to serious problems if the bat is infected and can also potentially cause death. This is why we caution everyone who has been around bats to go get checked. If a bat has flown anywhere near you, you could have been bitten without even knowing it. And no, they don’t have to land on you to bite you; we’ve heard plenty of stories of ‘drive by bat bites’,” experts say. “And while they might be cute to look at, please don’t pick them up or handle them. Just because they look happy and healthy doesn’t mean they are.”

And given the size of the bat in the image (the picture is of an Eastern Pipistrelle, the type that bit Syvertson), you can see just how small they are. In fact, we can’t even see the bat’s teeth in the image so we have to agree with the experts; you’re probably unlikely to feel the bite.  

Bats and rabies symptoms

A little brown bat with white nose syndrome

Canada, which sits right against New Hampshire, is home to 18 different bat species. All of which can unfortunately carry rabies. Because of their close proximity, those different species also migrate between the states and Canada so even though the Eastern Pipistrelle is native to Canada, it has no problem snagging a passport and visiting the USA.

However, it’s not just Canada and the northern states that have to worry about being bit by rabid bats; bats are incredibly common through the United States and the world for that matter. And as we mentioned earlier, all the species of mammals, including bats, can contract the disease. Bats however are asymptomatic. This means that unlike other animals, they won’t show signs of carrying the disease. Most animals will exhibit signs such as aggression or foaming at the mouth while bats while show no symptoms. “We rarely know whether a bat is carrying rabies symptoms or not until we test the brain tissue. If they have rabies, they don’t show it,” experts say. This is why it’s incredibly important to seek medical attention if you come into contact with a bat.

“Less than ½ of 1% of all the bats in the world my carry the disease so there’s nothing to really fear about them necessarily. This doesn’t mean that you should go out and actively try to handle them, but if you see them out and about just leave them alone. We see so many people destroy bat colonies out of fear of rabies symptoms. Please don’t do that. They’re happy to eat bugs and leave you alone.”

Safety precautions when dealing with bats

The common vampire bat feeds on blood

If you see a bat out in the wild or near your home, there are a few rules and precautions that you should definitely follow:

  • Never touch a bat with bare hands. If you find a bat somewhere near your house, it’s best to leave it alone and call a professional to come handle it if you want it removed. If you absolutely have to handle a bat, wear thick gloves. Don’t trust latex gloves to cut it; grab some thick gardening or mechanic gloves.
  • If you think you’ve been bitten or have had contact with a bat, you need to call your family doctor and your local health district immediately.
  • If a bat gets into your home and is flying around, open a window or door to give it a chance to fly out. You should also remove yourself from the room and close the door, blocking it from accessing the area you’re at. If you’ve been bitten or scratched by it, leave the room immediately and contact a professional wildlife removal company as well as your doctor.
  • If there are bats living on your property or near your residence, don’t attempt to remove them yourself. You can devastate their colony or get bit. Contact a wildlife removal company to take care of the issue. They can do so humanely and safely.
  • According to experts, bats that are on the ground rather than up high or hiding somewhere are typically sick. “Don’t attempt to move a bat that’s just laying around. Something is wrong with it and it’s likely rabies symptoms.” So once again, call in the experts.
  • Keep your pets’ rabies vaccinations current. Pets can easily come into contact with bats and get bit. Because of this, it’s important to keep up with your pets’ vaccinations.
  • Close up gaps and small areas around your house. Bats can slip through even the smallest of spaces so if you have your doubts, call in the professionals. They can help you locate and seal any access points. Experts suggest caulking openings that are bigger than a quarter inch by half inch. “Bats are tinier than we often give them credit for. It doesn’t take much space for them to be able to slip through.”
  • Keep your doors closed tightly and if you want to have your windows open, make sure you have screens and that they don’t have holes in them. Chimney caps and gaps between doors can also allow bats to come into your home.

Interesting facts about bats

Wing membranes of Townsend's big-eared bat

Unfortunately, bats often find themselves the victims of a bad, underserved rap. “A lot of people think they look creepy and everyone assumes that a bat automatically equals rabies symptoms. However, this is definitely not the case. Bats are important to the environment and for the most part are content to just leave us alone. Occasionally they get caught up in our lives as we often share the same spaces. Also keep in mind that a very, very small portion of bats actually carry rabies symptoms. This doesn’t mean that you should skip a medical exam if you get bit, but it does mean that you shouldn’t go out and actively destroy their colonies,” researchers state.

1. There are over 1,300 different species of bats and they can be found all over the globe. They also range in size varying from smaller than a penny to the size of a small dog with an impressive wing span of 6 foot.

2. Not every bat hibernates. While a lot of bats tuck themselves away into dark, warm caverns for the winter, not all bats choose to spend the cold months hibernating. The spotted bat for example migrates to warmer areas when it starts getting cold in search of food and a more hospitable environment.

3. Bats don’t have very many natural predators, but they are incredibly susceptible to disease. Owls, snakes and hawks do eat bats, but for the most part their populations aren’t kept in check by these predators. However, disease is a big factor when it comes to colony devastation. White-Nose syndrome is one of the biggest killers of bats. It’s a type of fungus that is found on the bat’s nose and wings. Over 6.5 million bats worldwide have died because of this disease. Currently there is no cure for it.

4. Without bats, you might not get to enjoy some tasty fruit and treats. There are over 300 species of fruits that depend on bats for survival. Bats help spread the seeds for figs, nuts, and cacao while also spreading pollen from other plants to help them survive. Mangoes, bananas and avocados would disappear without bats.

5. Bats do a good job or controlling the bug population; especially mosquitoes. A single bat can eat their body weight and more in insects. This means in a single night, a bat population can take out millions of troublesome insects. Their insect rich diet also helps farmers and foresters care for their crops by keeping the number of pesky bugs severely reduced.

6. Some bat poop sparkles because of their heavy diet of insects thanks to chitin. Weird, right?

7. They might be small, but they’re mighty! Depending on the species, bats can reach speeds of over 100 miles an hour according to research!

What are your thoughts?

We’d like to know how and why you think the bat chose Syvertson’s iPad cover as a place of refuge. Out of all of the places the bat could have chosen, it picked the cover. Do you think it wasn’t thinking straight because of the disease or do you agree with Syvertson that it wanted to browse the Internet and had his password? Let us know what you think in the comment section below!

Vimal Lalani is senior correspondent for Ishli, Medical and Wellness unit, reporting breaking news and health consumer reporting on Ishli.com.

Written by Vimal Lalani

Vimal Lalani is senior correspondent for Ishli, Medical and Wellness unit, reporting breaking news and health consumer reporting on Ishli.com.

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