Vancouver Coastal Health has issued a public health warning to stay away from the flying furry creatures after one bat in Kitsilano was tested positive.
It comes as a reminder as rabies affects the central nervous system. Infected bats can transmit the disease to humans when its saliva comes into contact with a person’s eyes, nose, mouth or through breaks in the skin.
“We hear of people finding an injured or sick bat and trying to nurse it back to health. A bat acting unusually may be more likely to be infected with rabies, so this practice is risky,” said Randy Ash, senior environmental health officer.
“The majority of human contact with bats happens between July and September when bats are most active and juveniles are weaned. So we are taking this opportunity to remind everyone to avoid contact with bats.”
Rabies are uncommon as the most recent human case was in 2003 when an individual died of the bat strain. Last year, five bats in the province tested positive for the disease. About 4 to 8 per cent of bats sent for testing from B.C. are found to carry rabies.
Health officials are advising the public to seek immediate medical attention of they have been scratched, bitten or have had any physical with a bat – dead or alive.
Other mammals such as skunks, foxes, racoons and coyotes are not known to carry rabies in B.C., although anyone bitten by them should still seek medical treatment to ensure they are not at risk of bacterial infections.
“While rabies can be prevented with a vaccine if given soon after exposure to the virus, immunization is ineffective once symptoms develop,” said Dr. Meena Dawar, medical health officer.
Rabies from bats: prevention tips
- Do not touch live or dead bats
- If you know of bats living in a building and would like to learn more about whether you need to or how to safely evict them, see www.bcbats.ca.
- Avoid locations or activities where bats are likely to be encountered (e.g. caves)
- If you have a pet dog, cat or ferret, make sure that it is vaccinated regularly against rabies
- Warn children about the risks of exposure to rabies (e.g. not approaching wildlife or handling bats)
- In the Lower Mainland, injured bats can be reported to the Wildlife Rescue Association at 604-526-7275. On the Sunshine Coast, injured bats can be reported to the Gibsons Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre at 604-886-4989.
People who have been bitten or scratched by a bat (or other possibly rabid animal), or who have handled a bat should immediately do the following:
- Thoroughly wash the bite or scratch with soap and water, using lots of water to flush the wound
- In the case of handling a bat, wash hands thoroughly
- Seek medical attention right away
- If the bat is still alive and available, have a wildlife expert capture it and contact VCH at 604-675-3900for testing. If the bat is dead, simply contact VCH.
Featured Image: bats via Shutterstock