Wildlife experts have said there is no need for people to be afraid of bats after a two-year-old boy was bitten in his cot in an “incredibly rare” incident.
Kian Mallinson needed a precautionary rabies vaccination after he was bitten by a bat that had found its way into his bedroom in Hull.
Professionals reassured the public that the disease had not been found in the variety of bat that is thought to have bitten the toddler.
Kian’s mother Jodie Smith, 29, said he was sent to hospital after she realised he had been bitten.
He had woken her by screaming during the night and the next morning Ms Smith found the bat – believed to be a pipistrelle – in the duvet.
Ms Smith told The Sun: “As I made his bed I flicked the duvet up. The bat flicked out and started crawling across his bedroom floor. I was terrified.”
Louise Wilkinson, conservation policy and campaign manager with Yorkshire Wildlife Trust, said pipistrelles are the most common bat species in the UK.
She said they roost in trees and roof spaces but have no reason to enter the living spaces of people’s homes, and she suspected this was a young bat that had lost its way.
She said the tiny creatures – whose bodies are only the size of a thumbnail – eat insects and only bite humans if they are handled.
Ms Wilkinson said: “We’re obviously really sorry to hear what happened to the family and we wish the little boy well.
“It is incredibly rare for bats to enter a house and there is no reason for them to bite a human being for food purposes.
“The likelihood of being bitten by a bat is minuscule, there’s nothing to be afraid of, they do us a great service.
“They don’t do any damage, they’re very unnoticeable if they’re in your house, and the only recorded instance of biting is if they are being handled.
“The only potential risk if you do get bitten by a bat, which is incredibly rare, is the rabies. They haven’t recorded rabies in pipistrelle bats but the family are doing the right thing in having the vaccinations.
“People do not need to worry that this is going to happen if they’ve got bats nearby. They’re wonderful creatures, we shouldn’t be fearful of them, this is a really rare thing.”
She reminded people that bats are protected by legislation and it is against the law to destroy or damage a roost.
Dr Kevin Brown, from Public Health England (PHE), said: “The risk of catching rabies from bats in the UK is very low, with the last human case of rabies contracted from a bat in 2002.
“Rabies has not been found in pipistrelles – the type of bat most commonly found in UK homes. However, as a precautionary measure, PHE recommends a course of rabies vaccine for people who have been bitten by any species of bat.”
A spokesman for the Bat Conservation Trust said numbers had declined in the last century but a combination of legislation and education had helped the partial recovery of some species, including the pipistrelle.
He said: “Despite the fact that bats are a vital part of our native wildlife, they are highly misunderstood and undervalued.”
Anyone who needs advice about bats should contact the National Bat Helpline on 0345 1300 228.