Bat bite prompts rabies warning in central Ontario

Health officials in central Ontario are reminding residents to remain cautious after a woman was bitten by a rabid bat in her home in Kawartha Lakes, about 345 kilometres southwest of Ottawa.

Woman recovering after being bitten by rabid bat in her Kawartha Lakes home

A bat found its way into the woman's home and bit her while she slept. (Merlin D. Tuttle/Bat Conservation International/AP)

Health officials in central Ontario are reminding residents to remain cautious after a woman was bitten by a rabid bat in her home in Kawartha Lakes, about 345 kilometres southwest of Ottawa.

The Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District Health Unit issued the warning last week after the woman was given a post-exposure vaccine for rabies in early August.

The woman was sleeping when the bat bit her, said Richard Ovcharovich, the unit's manager of environmental health on CBC's Ontario Morning.

"She felt something on her hand, thought it was like a fly or something so she brushed it away, and was awoken when it bit her," he said.

The woman was able to capture the bat before calling for medical assistance, Ovcharovich​ said.

Seeing a bat flying during the daytime could be an indication it's rabid. (Jordi Segers/Canadian Wildlife Health Cooperative)

Woman recovering

"The bat was sick, so it wasn't flying around very much. It was just on the bed so they put something over top of it."

The bat later tested positive for rabies. The woman is recovering.

Ovcharovich said the woman lives in an older home, and the animal likely entered through a small hole.

"Any home can become occupied by bats. They don't need very big areas or holes to to be able to enter through."

Ovcharovich said bats are more likely to enter homes in the fall, when they're looking for places to hibernate for winter.

Warning signs

The best course of action if you discover a bat in your home is to call a pest control professional, Ovcharovich said.

Not all bats are rabid, and a healthy bat is very unlikely to bite a human, he said.

"They are more scared of us then we are of them."

A bat seen flying in the daytime, flying awkwardly or struggling to fly may be rabid, he said.

The health unit sees a spike in animal bites between April and September, Ovcharovich said.

"We tend to see an increase in animal bite incidents from people not paying attention and not thinking about animals as being potentially dangerous."

That includes everything from raccoons to stray dogs. In short, Ovcharovich said if you see an animal you don't know, stay away.

If you're bitten, wash the wound with soap and water and seek medical attention. Ovcharovich also urged pet owners to get their pets vaccinated for rabies, even if they're kept indoors.