City health officials are anxious to find the person who dropped off a bat at Ottawa’s Wild Bird Care Centre, because the bat has tested positive for rabies.
It's not known if the person who dropped the bat off was bitten, but authorities don't want to take any chances, because rabies is a serious viral disease that can be fatal.
The bat, contained in a shoebox, was left at the centre on Moodie Drive on July 21. Health officials say it's urgent that they get in touch with anyone who came in contact with the rabid bat.
"If this person, or anybody else, has been exposed to a bat, we would like them to call Ottawa Public Health," said Dr. Carolyn Pim, Ottawa’s associate medical officer of health. "We can assess whether there has been a significant exposure. Not every contact with a bat is a risk for rabies. You need to have contact with the bat’s saliva or have a bite or a scratch,"
Pim said most people exposed to bats are at low risk. However, this incident has triggered a general warning from the city for residents to avoid contact with bats. That may be easier said than done, because they are most active from July to mid-September, and often end up in homes.
"I'm still like, yech," said Lynne Skinner who was wakened at 3:30 a.m. Friday morning by three bats in her bedroom.
"I opened my eyes and all of a sudden I saw these three birds, bats, just flying, flying quite quickly in circles. I grabbed a towel, went to the door, and tried to get them out of there," Skinner said.
Eventually she called a pest-control company and managed to find one of the brown bats. It's possible the others are still in the house.
Marc Chubb, of Humane Wildlife Control thinks the bats got in through an air duct in the house. He said the hot weather is forcing bats into the living areas of homes where it's cooler.
"July to mid-August, we call it bat-hell month," Chubb said. "We don't get a lot of sleep. We are getting emergency calls all night."
Chubb says one of his own staff was once bitten by a bat. He said that, while the risk of rabies must be taken seriously, bats also play an important role in keeping mosquito populations under control.
"I would not panic. I think bats are fascinating creatures," he said.
If people take appropriate precautions, the general public should not be worried, Pim said.
"In a particular case of course, we want to get a hold of the person so we can assess their exposure," she said.
If you find yourself in a situation where you have to handle a bat, she said, make sure to wear good gloves. Anyone who gets bitten needs to get medical treatment right away to kill the virus.