Bats carrying a potentially fatal disease are entering Hudson Valley homes at alarming rates.

The Dutchess County Department of Behavioral & Community Health warns there has been a significant increase in the number of bats found inside homes with window air conditioning units.

While bats are gentle and not aggressive, they may carry and transmit diseases, namely rabies, officials say.

In 2018, the potential exposure to rabies increased by 18% and the number of bats submitted for testing rose 61% over the last year, the Dutchess County Department of Behavioral & Community Health reports.

"I strongly encourage all residents to inspect their air conditioning units," DBCH Commissioner A. K. Vaidian. "It is important that the gaps created when installing an air conditioner are sealed properly to keep bats out, and that the top sash hasn’t slid down. Carefully seal around window air conditioners, and especially between the window sashes, with foam, fabric, or other suitable material to prevent bats from gaining entry.”

During this time of year, the bat population increases significantly. Due to their small size, bats can easily squeeze into very small gaps, as little as a half inch, officials say.

The Dutchess County Department of Behavioral & Community Health recommends the following steps to prevent bats from entering your home:

  • Check that no gaps exist on the sides and bottom of your a.c. unit. Bats may gain entry to your house through these gaps. Check to make sure the upper window sash stays in place. Brace it up if needed.
  • Be sure open windows have a tight-fitting and intact screen. Ensure entry doors have a self-closing screen door.
  • When placing a fan in a window, be sure the screen remains in place.
  • Keep garage doors and other doors closed when not in use.
  • Make sure chimney dampers are closed. Seal all unused openings from the house into the chimney.
  • Be sure access points to areas such as attics, basements, and crawlspaces, are kept closed with tight-fitting doors.