Bat found in Kitchener had rabies, public health says

A bat in Kitchener has tested positive for rabies, Region of Waterloo Public Health says. It's "not unexpected" though, the agency says, as rabies is present in bats and summer sees more bat activity.

Test result 'not unexpected,' public health says

This is an undated closeup photo of the eastern pipistrelle bat, a species that is frequently linked with human rabies cases. Region of Waterloo Public Health reports a bat in Kitchener tested positive for rabies. (Merlin D. Tuttle/Bat Conservation International/AP)

A bat has tested positive for rabies in Kitchener, Region of Waterloo Public Health reports.

But, the health agency notes the test results are "not unexpected as rabies is present in bat populations and the summer means heightened bat activity."

Public Health Ontario says bats, skunks, foxes and raccoons are the most common animals to have rabies in Canada. Human cases are very rare. The last domestic case of human rabies in Ontario occurred in 1967.

A bite from an infected animal is the most common way rabies is spread and it happens when infected saliva comes into contact with a scratch, open wound or a person's nose, mouth or eyes.

There is heightened awareness of rabies, though, after a 21-year-old B.C. man died of rabies on July 13 after coming into contact with a bat in mid May. He had a puncture wound after the bat hit his hand, but he did not seek treatment. He began showing symptoms six weeks later and died at at St. Paul's Hospital in Vancouver.

Vaccine 'not that big of a deal'

Scott Weese is an infectious disease specialist at the University of Guelph. He says anyone bitten by any wild animal is to rinse the wound, which will help with any type of infection, and then they should talk to public health to determine the risk of rabies.

"The animal species, the circumstances, the bite, those are things that are put together to determine if there's rabies risk," Weese said.

If the animal can be caught, then it can be tested for rabies, he said. But if it can't be caught and it's one of the types of animals known to carry the disease, then "we have to assume that it could have had rabies."

Treatment for rabies "sounds daunting and it used to be a lot worse than it is," Weese said. In the past, the shot went into a person's abdomen, but Weese says that's no longer the case.

Now, people receive a series of four vaccines, one shot each time in the arm, and Weese says it's similar to getting a flu shot in terms of pain.

"I've actually been through it myself with my family. We had a rabid bat in the household a few years ago," he said.

"It's not pleasant getting vaccinated but it's certainly not that big of a deal and it's a lot better than rabies."


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