The risk of people contracting rabies in Canada, from bats or other wildlife, is low. (Photo by Alaska Department of Fish and Game)

Bat from Denman Island tests positive for rabies

Comox Valley veterinarian clinic reminds pet owners to ensure their animals have up-to-date vaccines

A Comox Valley veterinarian clinic is reminding pet owners to ensure their animals have up-to-date vaccines as a bat located from the Denman Island area has tested positive for rabies.

On Monday, Van Isle Veterinary Hospital in Courtenay identified a rabies-positive bat.

Candice Pacholuk, practice manager for the hospital said rabies is a viral disease that exists worldwide and is transmitted by bite wounds or saliva.

RELATED: B.C. man dies from rabies after contact with Vancouver Island bat

“It affects the nervous system of mammals, including humans,” she noted in an email to The Record. “Humans can contract the rabies virus from a dog or cat, in fact, as per the BC Centre for Disease Control website, dogs are responsible for most of the human cases worldwide.”

She added once symptoms start to show, death is certain.

Pacholuk noted although the prevalence of rabies on Vancouver Island is considered low, the rabid bat was sent to the BCCDC.

“This is not a common finding for Vancouver Island … but a good reminder that rabies can be found here and this is not a new virus to the Island.”

According to BCCDC, in British Columbia, the only animals that carry rabies are several species of bats. About 0.5 per cent of bats carry rabies within the province, but on average, 13 per cent of bats sent for rabies testing are positive, which is due to bats that come in contact with humans or domestic animals are more likely to carry rabies.

In other parts of Canada, rabies is found in wild animals such as bats, raccoons, skunks, red foxes and arctic foxes.

Last month, a B.C. man died from a viral rabies infection after coming into contact with a bat on Vancouver Island in May.

The man’s infection is the first case of human rabies in the province since 2003 and one of only 24 known cases in Canada since the 1920s – the most recent in Ontario in 2012 and Alberta in 2007.

The B.C. Ministry of Health asks that anyone who comes in contact with a bat immediately wash the area with soap and water, even if there is no obvious bite or scratch, and consult a health-care provider or local public health department immediately where a vaccine to prevent infection may be provided.

Pacholuk said a deceased bat should never be touched or picked up before contacting public health or the BCCDC for proper handling and disposal instructions.

“The BCCDC website also lists what is recommended for booster vaccinations if you are concerned that your pet has been exposed to a deceased bat. Typically, in most cases, it is recommended that your pet’s rabies vaccination be boosted after exposure, even if vaccine status is up-to-date.”

She added a booster vaccination is recommended within seven days of exposure.

If a pet is not up to date on its rabies vaccination, it may be quarantined. Pacholuk said should an animal ever bite someone, its owner could be asked to provide proof of rabies vaccination as it is a zoonotic disease (a disease that can be transmitted to humans from animals).

For more information, visit the BCCDC website at www.bccdc.ca/health-info/diseases-conditions/rabies



erin.haluschak@comoxvalleyrecord.com

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