Toronto Public Health (TPH) has received lab results confirming that a bat found in High Park on Monday, July 19 has tested positive for rabies. TPH received the positive test results on Wednesday, October 20. Given the bat was found in a public place, and as the incubation period for rabies can be up to one year, TPH is alerting the public as a precaution.
If you or a member of your family were in High Park on or around July 19 and touched or handled a bat, please contact TPH at 416-338-7600 to have your exposure risk to rabies assessed.
Rabies is a viral infection that affects the nervous system of warm-blooded animals, including humans. If it is left untreated before symptoms appear, rabies will lead to death. The rabies virus is spread through the saliva of an infected animal, usually entering through a bite or more rarely a scratch.
Transmission of rabies by bats to humans is rare and there is an overall low risk of rabies in bats in Ontario. It is estimated that only two per cent to three per cent of Ontario’s bat population are infected.
It is not always possible to identify whether a bat or other animal has rabies without testing; however, rabid bats commonly lose their ability to fly or do not fly well. Other signs that a bat may be rabid include wandering around in the daylight, crawling on the ground or otherwise acting strangely.
Transmission and serious illness to humans can be prevented after exposure by immunization with the rabies vaccine. The vaccine is extremely effective, but must be administered before symptoms appear.
Residents should avoid physical contact with all bats. Residents who may have had physical contact with this or any other bat should see a healthcare provider immediately to be assessed.
While the overall risk of being exposed to rabies remains low for the public, the following preventive measures can be taken to reduce the risk:
- Stay away from all wild animals, whether they appear tame, injured or sick. Every animal is capable of unpredictable behaviour.
- Do not feed wild animals such as raccoons and squirrels or keep wild animals as pets.
- Ensure that your pet’s rabies vaccinations are up to date.
- Always supervise your dog. Dogs should not run loose in public spaces in the city, except in off-leash parks.
- Keep pets away from wild animals and do not let pets roam unsupervised.
- Wildlife-proof your home and yard. Find out how: https://www.toronto.ca/community-people/animals-pets/wildlife-in-the-city/wildlife-proof-your-home-and-lawn/.
- Store garbage bins inside a garage/basement until the morning of pickup.
- “Bat-proof” your home:
– Examine your home for holes that may allow bats to enter your home.
– Caulk any openings or holes that may allow bats to enter.
– Install window screens, chimney caps and/or draft-guards under doors to attics.
– Fill electrical and plumbing holes with steel wool or caulking.
– Make sure all exterior doors close tightly.
If you are bitten or scratched or if you have concerns about an exposure to this or any other bat or animal, follow these steps:
- If possible, collect animal owner/custodian information (name, address and phone number).
- Immediately wash the bite or wound with soap and water for at least 15 minutes.
- Apply an antiseptic to the wound.
- Seek medical attention from a healthcare provider to assess your risk and discuss treatment options.