CHEMUNG COUNTY, N.Y. (WETM) — Officials from the Chemung County Health Department are warning residents about the potential of rabies exposure from bats.

According to the CDC, rabies is a virus that infects the central nervous system. Rabies has a nearly 100% mortality rate when left untreated. Humans and other mammals can contract rabies through bites, scratches, or saliva from an infected animal.

Bats have very small teeth, so bites might not be felt or visible. If you find a bat in your home, Supervising Public Health Sanitarian Erin Walmsley recommends calling the Chemung County Health Department before releasing it into the wild. It might be possible for the health department to test the bat for rabies. If the bat is negative for rabies, you can avoid receiving rabies treatment. If the bat is positive for rabies or cannot be tested, you will need to be treated for rabies.

Around 10 people are treated for rabies every year in Chemung County because they released bats back into the wild before they could be tested. Several unvaccinated pets also have to be quarantined or euthanized due to exposure to rabid or potentially rabid bats each year. Make sure your dogs, cats, and ferrets are up to date on rabies vaccinations to protect them and yourself from possible rabies exposure.

For more information on rabies, you can visit the Chemung County website. If you find a bat in your home, you can report it by calling the Environmental Health Services of the Chemung County Health Department at 607-737-2019.