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Interior Health warns residents to stay away from bats

Interior Health has reminded residents to stay away from bats.

The agency said between 4–8 per cent of bats that come into contact with people in British Columbia have rabies.

Rabies is a viral disease that is almost always fatal without treatment.

Interior Health said 132 people were treated for potential exposure to the virus in 2021.

<who> Photo credit: WildSafeBC </who> A pallid bat.

Bats are the only animals in BC known to carry rabies, according to WildSafeBC.

“It is very important that people avoid handling bats with their bare hands to prevent bites or scratches,” the agency said.

“This is particularly important for children, who tend to find bats on the ground and play with them. Anyone who has been bitten or scratched by a bat should seek medical attention immediately.”

Treatment involves a two-week course of vaccinations.

Interior Health provided the following list of tips related to bats:

Precautions to protect yourself from contact with bats

  • Do not touch live or dead bats, talk to your children about not touching bats lying on the ground as these creatures may be potentially sick.
  • Make your residence “bat proof.” Keep doors and windows closed, make sure window screens don’t have any holes and keep attic vents properly screened and openings closed.
  • If you find a live bat in a room of your home, open the window and close interior doors until the bat leaves.
  • Seek professional bat-control advice (from a pest control or wildlife specialist) if your home is inhabited by bats.
  • Avoid locations where bats are likely to be found (e.g. caves).
  • Vaccinate your pets against rabies.

If you suspect you have been bitten or scratched by a bat

  • Thoroughly wash any bite or scratch wounds with soap and water.
  • Contact your local public health unit, primary care provider immediately or go to the emergency department. Although less frequently, other mammals can also carry rabies. Please consult with your health provider or emergency department if you had a close encounter with a potentially rabid animal.
  • If possible, safely contain the bat to prevent others from being exposed. Keep the bat in a safe location until a trained public health official can arrange to pick it up and test it for rabies.

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