Fear of bats as vectors of rabies is pervasive as a primary cause of their needless destruction, especially in the United States. Nevertheless, transmission from bats to humans is so rare that only 27 of 50 states have reported a single case since record keeping began in the 1940s, and fewer than 0.78 persons/year have been infected. We here analyze human rabies exposure records from the Pennsylvania Department of Health to document relative risks in one representative state. Rabies exposure from bats to humans was no more frequent than from dogs and significantly less than from cats. Yet, of these three, only bats are listed as high-risk vectors. Furthermore, we found that 85.4% of rabies diagnosed from bats was confined to just one of the state's 11 species. These findings suggest that disproportionate emphasis on bats, combined with lumping all bat species into a single risk category, is counterproductive to public health interests, in addition to needlessly prejudicing the public against these highly beneficial, but declining animals.
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Vol. 6 • No. 1