Whether or not students believe Washington Hall is haunted, the residence hall was home to some frightening friends during Fall Semester finals week.
Because of the surrounding hills and their bright lights swarming with insects, Ohio University’s residence halls make a great place for bats to roost.
On the fourth floor of Washington last semester, Olivia Denzy, a freshman studying communication, made contact with a bat in the middle of the night.
“I had to get the entire rabies series at the ER at O’Bleness (Hospital),” Denzy said. “My first trip was four shots and I had to go back for three more every other day, totaling seven shots.”
Denzy moved to Bush Hall after the incident, and she said six others followed her because of similar bat problems.
Chad Keller, OU’s environmental health coordinator, detailed the importance of treating the situation as a rabies-positive case because the bat was not identified.
“We always suggest that students seek attention for rabies. Not treating is fatal, and the treatment is very effective,” Keller said.
Although the rabies rate is low, about 5 percent of bats test positive so it is still a necessary safeguard, Keller said.
Bats most commonly enter buildings through open windows without screens, and they generally target residence halls.
In August and September, dorm windows are often left open throughout the night while office and lecture room windows remain closed, said Peter Trentacoste, executive director of Residential Housing.
From there, bats can squeeze through holes three-eighths of an inch wide into hollow cinder block walls — what most residence halls on campus are made of — and begin hibernation, Keller said.
If students find a bat, they should contact the OU Police Department directly, or a residence assistant or residence director who will contact OUPD, Keller said.
Before Keller or another member of the Environmental Health and Safety team comes to collect the bat, Keller said the student would be advised to keep an eye on the bat while keeping his or her distance.
Watching the bat will make the bat man’s job easy to collect the bat and send it to the Ohio Department of Health for rabies testing, Keller said.
Washington is not a special case, nor is this the first time bats have been caught on campus.
“There are 80 to 120 bats per year on campus, with 50 to 60 during the months of August and September,” Keller said.
Looking at the 214 buildings on campus, this only equates to a few bats per building, Trentacoste said.
“Washington is not above any other building for bats,” Trentacoste said. “Sometimes it is due to the buildings being old, but we definitely have bats in this region and our goal is to exclude them as soon as possible.”
By Emily Daffron
Publication Date: January 29, 2014 – 12:55am
Updated: January 29, 2014 – 1:01am
Chad Keller works for Ohio University’s Environmental Health and Safety department as a bat catcher for the buildings on campus. He has snatched more than 500 bats in his lifetime using nothing but gloves and coffee containers. (Logan Riely | File Photo)
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