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Human Exposure to Bats and Other Possible Carriers of Rabies

Summer time brings sunny weather, longer days and more time spent outside. It also brings with it an increased risk of contact between people and wild animals, particularly bats, and consequently an increased risk of exposure to rabies – a disease which, if not prevented quickly after exposure to the virus, is fatal over 99% of the time.

Bats are the primary carriers of rabies in the province. People should avoid physical contact with bats, and seek immediate medical attention if they have been bitten by, or have had any physical contact with a bat. While rabies can be prevented with a vaccine after exposure to the virus, immunization is ineffective once symptoms develop.

How to prevent exposure

  • Do not touch live or dead bats (or other possible carriers of rabies)
  • Make your home or cabin ‘bat-proof.’ Keep your doors and windows closed or screened (make sure the screens don’t have any holes), and keep your attic area free of bats by ensuring all vents are properly screened
  • Seek professional bat control advice if you observe bats in your work area or home environment
  • Avoid locations or activities where bats are likely to be encountered (e.g. caves)
  • If you have a pet dog, cat or ferret, make sure it is vaccinated regularly against rabies
  • Warn children about the risks of exposure to rabies (e.g. not approaching wildlife or handling bats)

What to do if you've been bitten or scratched by a possible carrier of rabies

People who have been bitten or scratched by a bat, or who have handled a bat, should immediately do the following:

  • Thoroughly wash the bite or scratch with soap and water, using lots of water to flush the wound
  • In the case of handling a bat, wash hands thoroughly
  • Seek medical attention right away