by Margaret Speirs
A bat dive-bombed a person during the day at Lakelse Lake recently and locals are being cautioned because it tested positive for rabies.— Image Credit: Bernard Dupont
A Lakelse Lake rabid bat attack is the first in B.C. in more than a decade
After a bat dive-bombed a person at Lakelse Lake during daytime and tested positive for rabies health officials are warning the public to be mindful of any bizarre behaviour from bats or other animals.
The attack happened at the end of June or beginning of July, and it appeared that the person was not bitten or scratched by the bat, which was killed.
Dr. Raina Fumerton Northwest Medical Health Officer for Northern Health ordered that it be sent to a specialized lab in Alberta that tests for rabies.
In B.C., the only type of rabies is bat variant rabies and it’s estimated that about 0.5 per cent of bats in the province are infected, she said.
“Generally speaking, when a person or another animal gets infected, it’s from a bat bite but it is very rare”, said Fumerton, adding there’s never been a documented case of bat variant rabies transmitted to humans through any other animal than a bat.
The last reported case of human rabies in B.C. was in 2003
In this case, that bat was acting quite strangely: being out in the middle of the day and flying at this individual, added Fumerton.
“Normally, bats stay out of people’s way,” said Fumerton.
Every year, a handful of bats in the north test positive for rabies so it’s not unexpected that the bat had rabies at this time of the summer, she added.
“We ask people if they are exposed to an animal such as a bat that they think might have rabies to wash their wound well for about 15 minutes with soap and water. Go see your doctor and let the public health unit know and if it’s warranted and if possible, we can send the bat for testing and offer the (rabies shots),” said Fumerton.
The shots would be a series of four vaccines given over two weeks, she said.
Rabies is transmitted through saliva and infects the brain and nervous system and if not treated in time and the person develops symptoms, it’s almost always fatal.
Don’t risk getting bitten just to capture the bat and don’t touch it with your bare hands. Call the local public health unit, who can instruct people how to capture bat safely and you only want to do that if there’s a risk of exposure.
Bats are an important part of the ecosystem and protected by law so if they’re behaving normally, don’t try to catch them, she added.
Make sure to vaccinate pets: cats dogs and ferrets, and make sure the shots are kept up to date so they’re protected even if they’re indoor animals.
(the original story indicated that the victim was offered shots and declined them, but the victim did get vaccinated)