Rabies is transmitted through contact with an infected animal’s saliva, usually through a bite or scratch, or through contact with an infected animal’s nervous tissues (brain and spinal cord).

Animals that pose the greatest risk for transmitting rabies include raccoons, skunks, woodchucks, foxes, coyotes, bats, and stray domestic animals.

If you have questions about potential rabies exposures or submitting animals for testing, please call the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, Division of Epidemiology and Immunization at (617) 983-6800.

The animal’s brain is used for rabies testing. Therefore, be careful not to destroy the head of the animal by gunshot or bludgeoning. If a firearm must be used to euthanize the animal, the animal should be shot through the heart (the point of aim should be the shoulder area or chest cavity), using the smallest caliber projectile available.

When a bat is found in a home, do not release the bat outdoors unless you can safely rule out that an exposure occurred. If direct contact between a human and a bat has occurred, the bat should be submitted for testing. Keep in mind that bites or scratches from bats may be very small and may not be visible. If a sleeping person awakens to find a bat in the room, or an adult witnesses a bat in the room with a previously unattended child, mentally disabled person, or intoxicated person, the bat should be submitted for testing. Bats should be safely captured using thick rubber gloves. Wait until the bat lands, cover the bat with a coffee can (or similar container), and slide cardboard under the container. If an exposure occurred and the bat is not available for testing, advise the homeowner to contact their local board of health or the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, Division of Epidemiology & Immunization at (617) 983-6800.

This information is from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health State Laboratory Institute.