A 21-year-old British Columbia man has died after contracting rabies after coming into contact with a bat on Vancouver Island.
Dr. Bonnie Henry, provincial health officer, said the man was in contact with a bat on Vancouver Island in mid-May and developed symptoms compatible with rabies six weeks later.
The man died at St. Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver. His identity and the location where he was in contact with the bat have not been released.
Family members, close community contacts and health-care workers who cared for the man are being assessed and given post-exposure rabies preventive measures if needed, Henry said.
According to the province, anyone in B.C. who comes in contact with a bat, even if there’s no obvious bite or scratch, need to wash the area with soap and water. They should then visit a health-care provider or local public health department immediately. Staff will assess the risk of rabies and may provide a vaccine to prevent infection.
The man is the second person in B.C. to have died of rabies since 1924. The last case in B.C. was in 2003. Overall, in Canada, there have been only 24 known cases since the 1920s. The most recent cases in Canada were in Ontario in 2012 and Alberta in 2007.
Bats are the only known carriers of the rabies virus in B.C. About 13 per cent of bats tested in B.C. are positive for rabies. This means there is an ongoing risk for people and for companion animals, such as cats and dogs. Officials say it is important to ensure pets’ rabies vaccinations are up to date. If you believe your pet has had contact with a bat, consult your veterinarian.
With files from CBC