Residents of a University of Georgia dorm have been plagued with a bat infestation since returning to campus two weeks ago, and getting rid of the small flying mammals has been easier said than done.
The bats were first discovered at the Ogelthorpe House dorm on Jan. 14, which houses up to 500 students and costs over $3,000 per semester to live in. The bats are believed to have entered the dorm through a mechanical space on the roof of the building where the boilers are housed, and then infiltrating the stairwells. But after they were initially cleared, an additional 25–30 bats were recently discovered in the rafters of the rooftop space, which is not accessible to students.
One student who has seen the bats on several occasions, Eva Sardon, described the situation to Fox 5 News Atlanta as "very alarming." "There was one in the lobby, and it was like on the floor, and then all of a sudden it just got up and started flying at me, so I ran back to my room," Sardon said.
"I don’t know how exterminating works, but I feel like there could be more done," UGA freshman Ella Jones likewise told Atlanta News First. "But they have certain qualifications they can’t do because they’re a protected species. But I go to school here, am I not a protected species? I sure hope I am."
— Adam Murphy (@AdamMurphyTV) January 18, 2024
Indeed, the fact that the bats are a protected species is making the situation even more complicated. Linda Kasper, executive director of university housing, explained that pest control has been attempting to carefully remove the bats without harming them.
"We weren't able to complete that work until the next weekend because we needed to get a lift that could reach the 10th floor of the building, which is the penthouse," Kasper told Fox 5. "We completed that work with sealing all of the holes on Sunday. We expected it would take about three days to remove all the bats because the bats are so small, and they're very good at hiding."
"Yesterday, we found about 30 bats in the morning in the stairwell," she added. "There is still a possibility that there are a few. So, we continue to have pest control here around the clock. They are on call, and we continue to tell students please do not touch the bats."
If students should encounter a bat, they are encouraged to call the front desk or call their resident assistant. Though less than one percent of bats carry rabies, the disease is fatal, and anyone who has come into contact with a bat should seek medical advice.
The Northeast Health District said it is coordinating with the both the Georgia Department of Public Health’s epidemiology unit and the University of Georgia to carry out a risk assessment.
"Whether post‐exposure rabies vaccination would be recommended for an individual depends on a number of factors, and completing the assessment will allow public health officials to make recommendations and connect individuals to appropriate care, if needed, based on their specific circumstances," the agency said in a statement.