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Bats in the backyard: good or bad?

Bats in the backyard: good or bad?

Q. I’ve heard that bats are good to have around because they eat bugs. But don’t they also carry rabies? —M.O., White Plains, N.Y.

You’re right on both counts. Bats are important to our ecosystem because they feast on pests that would otherwise ruin crops. Plus they eat mosquitoes. On the other hand, while most bats don’t have rabies, one could give you that deadly virus if it’s infected. So don’t handle bats, even if they look healthy. (Rabid bats often display odd behavior, such as flying during the day or landing on the ground.) If a bat scratches or bites you, get medical help right away. You may need an anti-rabies shot. And avoid inhaling dust that’s contaminated with bat droppings; it can contain harmful fungi.

See these tips from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on how to safely remove bats from your home. And read our advice for other ways to control mosquitoes, including our Ratings of the best insect repellents. Finally learn how to deal with other backyard hazards, such as ticks and poison ivy.

Got another question for our health experts? Ask it here. Please include the state you live in.

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