The Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District (HKPR) Health Unit is warning area residents to be vigilant around bats and to ensure their pets are up-to-date on their rabies vaccination after a local family was exposed to a rabid bat.
An incident took place recently at the family’s home where a bat entered the dwelling. The bat was captured, sent for testing, and subsequently found to be positive for rabies — meaning family members and their pets were potentially exposed to rabies.
The health unit says the affected family members were provided post-exposure vaccine for rabies and are recovering well in the aftermath. The family-owned pets are getting follow-up with a veterinarian on possible rabies exposure for the animals.
“Contact with any wild animal, including bats, should be avoided if at all possible,” says Richard Ovcharovich, environmental health manager with the HKPR District Health Unit. “That message applies to people and pets. It’s never worth the risk, especially when rabies is involved.”
Rabies is a virus that affects the central nervous system of warm-blooded animals, including humans. The virus is transmitted when there is contact with the saliva of an infected animal through a bite, lick, or scratch. Once signs of rabies appear, in any animal (including humans), the disease is almost always fatal. However, a series of vaccinations and treatment with rabies antibodies can prevent infection in humans in most cases, if administered soon after exposure.
The animals that most often transmit rabies in Ontario are bats, foxes, skunks, and raccoons. Although most animal bites are readily apparent, bites inflicted by bats can be harder to notice, especially if it involves an infant, child, or those with cognitive impairments.
When it comes to bats, the health unit offers these tips:
- If you suspect you may have been bitten or had contact with a bat, immediately report this to your family doctor and your local health unit.
- If you are bitten or scratched by a bat that is discovered in your home, leave the room, close the door, and contact a professional pest control company or wildlife removal company.
- Do not touch a bat with your bare hands. If there was no human contact (bite or scratch), open a window, and allow the bat to get out.
- If you have bats living on your property and want to remove them, contact a professional pest control company or wildlife removal company.
- If you discover a bat outdoors that is injured, acting strange, or dead, do not touch it.
- As bats can transmit the rabies virus to dogs and cats, ensure your pets are up-to-date on their rabies vaccinations.
- Bat-proof the home. If bats are found in the home, seek advice from an animal control or wildlife conservation authority. If doing it yourself, carefully examine your home for holes that might allow bats entry into your living quarters, then take steps to seal them. For instance, caulk any openings larger than a quarter-inch by a half-inch, ensure all doors to the outside close tightly, and use window screens, chimney caps, and draft-guards beneath doors to attics.