As more people head outdoors, it’s likely they may encounter bats.
Resident Health Officer with Interior Health, Dr. Diana Bark said it’s important to know about the potential risk of rabies in bats.
“In BC it’s estimated that about 0.5 percent of them carry the rabies virus however the ones that do come into contact with animals when those are tested it’s about 4 to 8 percent that tests positive for the rabies virus.”
Last year, Dr. Bark says about 132 people in the Interior Health Region were treated for potential exposure to rabies.
Interior Health says treatment, which involves a two-week-long period of vaccinations, should be administered as soon as possible after exposure, without treatment, rabies is almost always fatal.
We asked Dr. Bark what precautions should be taken to protect yourself from contact with bats.
“Do not touch a bat dead or alive. Sometimes people come across a sick or dead bat so it’s really important to avoid touching them. Another thing is avoiding going in places that are likely to have bats, so that includes caves and abandoned buildings.”
Interior Health says if you suspect you have been bitten or scratched by a bat:
Thoroughly wash any bite or scratch wounds with soap and water.
Contact your local public health unit, or primary care provider immediately or go to the emergency department.