Canadian woman at risk from handling bat with rabies

Health authorities in Canada are searching for a woman who took an injured bat to a Toronto Wildlife centre.

The bat has since been found to have rabies and the authorities fear the woman may have been bitten or scratched by the creature.

Toronto Public Health officials have called on the public to help find the woman who took the injured bat to the Wildlife Centre on September 4, 2007.

The bat has tested positive for rabies and Dr. Rosana Pellizzari, Associate Medical Officer of Health says people can become easily infected with rabies if they are scratched or bitten by an infected bat, and the woman may need to be vaccinated.

Although the rabies vaccination can prevent serious illness, it must be administered soon after being bitten or scratched by a rabid bat or other rabid animal or it is not effective.

Without vaccination, rabies is almost always fatal.

People can also become infected by the saliva from a rabid animal when it comes in contact with open cuts or with the mouth, nose or eyes.

People are warned never to touch a bat with their bare hands and to ensure any holes in their home where a bat could enter are sealed.

The onset of autumn and winter is often the time when human contact with bats increases as bats start looking for places to hibernate for the winter.

Anyone who has been bitten or scratched by a bat, or suspects they have been, should clean and wash the bite or scratch thoroughly with soap and water and seek immediate medical attention.

To prevent bats from coming indoors, seal holes in screens and any other small openings around the home as bats will enter through holes that are very small.

In many areas raccoons, foxes, skunks, coyotes and bats are sources of the rabies virus and pets should be vaccinated against rabies as they can also be infected if they are scratched or bitten by a rabid animal.

Anyone with information on the woman or wanting to report a health incident can call Toronto Public Health at 416-338-7600 or 416-690-2142 (after hours).

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