By NewsDesk @infectiousdiseasenews
Toronto health officials are reporting receiving lab results confirming that a bat found in the city tested positive for rabies.
This is the first confirmed case of rabies in an animal in Toronto since 2016.
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 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 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 a 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 preventative 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.
• 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 an 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.