The City of Hamilton Public Health Services received confirmation of the first positive rabid bat case this year. Nearly all human cases of rabies in Canada over the past several years have been a result of bites from rabid bats. Bat bites may be hard to see.

Brown Bat
Myotis lucifugus, or Little Brown Bat/CDC

“While residents should always steer clear of wild animals, Hamilton has a high number of rabid raccoons and skunks, and the highest amount for Ontario (Total raccoons and skunks found positive for rabies in Hamilton from Dec. 2015 to date: 129–81 raccoons and 48 skunks).

“We need people to stay away from wildlife, in particular raccoons, skunks, bats, and unknown dogs and cats,” says Richard MacDonald, program manager, Public Health Services. “Our overall goal is to prevent human cases of rabies – as rabies is almost always fatal.”

The overall risk to the public of being exposed to rabies remains low, but there are measures you can take to minimize your risk. It is important to take precautions to avoid contact with rabid animals.

Tips to prevent rabies:

  • Always keep a safe distance from, and avoid contact with wild animals including raccoons, skunks, bats, unknown dogs and cats and other wild animals. Rabies can make animals aggressive or it can make them appear sick, scared, or friendly.
  • Bat proof your home
  • Call Hamilton Animal Services at 905-546-2489 if you see a dead, sick or strangely acting raccoon, skunk, bat, or other wild animal
  • Do not feed, help, handle, or relocate any wildlife or keep them as pets
  • If you are bitten by a wild animal, or had direct contact with the animal’s saliva, wash the wound with soap and water, seek medical attention immediately or call Public Health Services at 905-546-2489.
  • Vaccinate your pets against rabies, and keep rabies vaccinations current for dogs and cats to protect them, and prevent any spread to people.
  • Contact your vet or the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food, and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) at 1-877-424-1300 if your pet is in contact with a wild animal.

Rabies is a preventable viral disease of mammals most often transmitted through the bite of a rabid animal.

The rabies virus infects the central nervous system, ultimately causing disease in the brain and death. The early symptoms of rabies in people are similar to that of many other illnesses, including fever, headache, and general weakness or discomfort. As the disease progresses, more specific symptoms appear and may include insomnia, anxiety, confusion, slight or partial paralysis, excitation, hallucinations, agitation, hypersalivation (increase in saliva), difficulty swallowing, and hydrophobia (fear of water). Death usually occurs within days of the onset of these symptoms.