New Brunswick

Bat bite prompts rabies warning in New Brunswick

Officials are urging people to minimize their risk of exposure to rabies after a Sussex Corner man was bitten by a rabid bat in his house.

Sussex Corner man bitten by rabid big brown bat he found in his basement

Officials are warning the about rabid big brown bats. (Megan Lawrence/Salthaven West)

Officials are urging the public to minimize the risk of exposure to rabies after a Sussex Corner man was bitten by a rabid bat.

The man recently discovered his cat had trapped a big brown bat in his basement.

As he tried to take the bat away from his pet, the bat bit the man on a finger. The bat, which did not survive the encounter, later tested positive for the rabies virus.

The man was treated with antibodies and given vaccines, said Dr. James Goltz, but the familiar story should be a reminder to people to reduce the risk of infection for them and their pets.

"Rabies can be fatal," Goltz, manager of veterinary laboratory and pathology services for the New Brunswick's Department of Agriculture, told Information Morning Moncton.

"So it's important if anyone is exposed to an animal that might have rabies … it's important to wash out the wound thoroughly with soap and water and immediately seek medical attention."

Goltz said the common rabid animals include raccoons, skunks, foxes and bats.

Raccoons are among the most common animals to get rabies infections. (Shane Fowler/CBC)

Unlike other bat species, which have been devastated by white-nose syndrome, the population of big brown bats has increased, Goltz said.

Over the past 30 years, New Brunswick has seen growing numbers of the bats, which were once rare in the area.

And during that time, 25 bats have tested positive for rabies, Goltz said.  Six of the rabid bats were found in 2017 alone — the most ever in a single year.

"Sometimes these things are a fluke and sometimes they are a trend, so we're watching this very, very carefully," Goltz said.

He said bats will often winter in homes and buildings, so it's important to reduce the risk of exposure.

New Brunswick's big brown bat population is growing, unlike other kinds of bats, which have been devastated by white-nose syndrome. (Merlin D. Tuttle/Bat Conservation International/AP)

Rabies is transmitted mainly through bite wounds since the virus is often found in the saliva of a rabid animal.

Goltz said if a bat is discovered, the room should be sealed off and an animal-control professional called.

In order to protect pets, he said, it's key to ensure your animals' vaccinations are up to date.

Rabies shots are good for three years, he said.

With files from Information Morning Moncton