With fall approaching, a Kansas State University veterinarian says homeowners and pet owners need to be cautious of bats, which are a leading transmitter of rabies.

“Bats are more active this time of year, which means there is an increased chance of exposure to them,” said Susan Nelson, clinical professor and veterinarian at the Kansas State University Veterinary Health Center in the College of Veterinary Medicine.

Case in point, Nelson said a bat recently found in a Manhattan residence tested positive for rabies.

“While bats are essential for our ecosystem and most bats are harmless, we need to remember that in some situations, bats can be a threat to our health,” Nelson said. “Any possible contact with bats by people or pets needs to be taken seriously.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control, bats are responsible for roughly 7 in 10 rabies deaths among people who are infected with the rabies virus in the U.S. The CDCsays that many people do not realize that bats can transmit rabies and don’t seek treatment when exposed to one. They often also don’t know that they have been bitten or scratched by a bat because of the small wounds that they leave.

Bats are a problem for animals as well, accounting for one-third of the 5,000 rabid animals that are reported in the U.S. each year.