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Spike In Number Of Rabid Bats Causing Alarm In Baltimore

BALTIMORE (WJZ)-- An increase in rabid bats is causing alarm in Baltimore City. You may have been bitten and not even know it.

Weijia Jiang has more on the spike in cases.

Bats are invading Baltimore.

"Last year, I had 10 or 15 calls from June to August," said David Shumaker, owner of Shumaker Animal Control. "This year, I probably average 10 to 15 calls per day."

The city health commissioner warns, it's not just bats. It's rabid bats, which could transmit the fatal disease to people and pets.

"Once rabies becomes a virus in the human system, people die," said Bill Wiseman from the Harford County Health Department.

Animal Control has already collected 188 bats this year. A dozen tested positive for rabies, compared to 11 of 222 bats in all of 2010.

Just two weeks ago in Aberdeen, nearly 30 people were vaccinated for rabies after a bat colony infested two apartment complexes.

"At night, I see them flying real close to us, above our heads," Perrywood Apartments resident Michael Jones said.

Health experts say you may be bitten by a bat and not even know it because of how small they are. An adult bat is about an inch and a half, so you can imagine how tiny its teeth are.

"You do get a scratch, and you'll say where did that come from?" Kevin Usilton, director of Baltimore Animal Control, said. "If you have a bat in your house, call 311 immediately."

Many are also calling private animal controllers like Shumaker, who describes the current bat population as the biggest he's seen in 25 years.

"It starts at 2 a.m., it's all day long," Shumaker explained. "I had seven bat calls today."

Why so many bats? Shumaker says this summer's extreme heat provides more insects for them to eat, leading to more reproduction. Then, rabies is transmitted through saliva.

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