Bats and Rabies
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Preventing animal disease by taking precautions

Avoiding rabies from bat exposures

BC is home to about 16 species of bats.. They come out in spring when the weather warms and the bugs come out and go into hiding for the winter when the bugs die off.

Most bats do not carry rabies; however, some do. Rabies is a serious viral illness that can affect humans and it is fatal if untreated. Rabies can be transmitted to humans when infected bat saliva comes in contact with mucous membranes (eye, mouth, and nose) or broken skin. This usually occurs through a bite or scratch. Bat teeth and claws are very sharp and small - bites and scratches may not be painful or visible. If a person has an encounter with a bat  a series of vaccines started shortly after the exposure can prevent rabies.

To avoid getting rabies from bats:

  • Bat-proof your home and/or cabin by using tight-fitting screens for windows and attic vents and by keeping doors closed or screened. If you have bats in your home or cabin, call a pest control company. Visit the Ministry of Environment website for tips on bat control.
  • Avoid places where bats like to live, such as caves and abandoned buildings.
  • Never touch bats whether they are healthy or sick, alive or dead.
  • Keep your pet’s rabies vaccination up to date, as they may come in contact with rabid bats.

Report to the following instances to Public Health:

  • A bat is known or suspected to have bitten or scratched someone. Someone has handled a bat with bare hands.
  • A bat has been found in a room and you are not able to confirm that it did not have physical contact with a person (e.g. young child or developmentally challenged person).

Testing bats

Bats will only be tested if a person has potentially been exposed to the rabies virus.   If the bat is found to be free of rabies, immunization against rabies is unnecessary.

To trap a bat for testing

Call a licensed pest control company (under “Pest Control” in the yellow pages of the phone book). If professional help is not available, adults (not children) should catch the bat - be careful and avoid direct physical contact.

  • Close all doors and windows in the area, put on a hat, leather gloves, a long-sleeved jacket and pants. Using a blanket, net, broom or towel, catch the bat (without touching it and while protecting any exposed area such as your face) and put it in a container. Close the container and put it into the freezer, which will make the bat go into hibernation (deep sleep).
  • If human exposure may have occurred, phone your Public Health Unit to arrange for the bat to be tested.

Treating bites

  • Allow bites to bleed freely for about 15 seconds
  • Wash bite wounds thoroughly and gently with mild soap & water
  • Apply a dressing to the wound and
  • Contact your doctor

Need more information?

For more information, contact your local Public Health Centre or HealthLink BC at 8-1-1, available 24/7.

 

MoH     PCQO