Northern residents urged to guard against the slim but real chance of rabies infection by bats

Northern Health is advising northern residents that physical contact with bats poses a small but real risk of rabies infection. Northern residents should take steps to protect themselves and their pets if they come into physical contact with a bat, which is possible during warmer weather.

?It has been many years since someone in BC contracted rabies, but the risk is there,? said Dr. David Bowering, Northern Health Chief Medical Health Officer. ?We?re certain that the skunk in Vancouver that recently tested positive for rabies was infected by a bat. So we?re reminding people to take extra care if they ever come into contact with a bat.?

Northern Health is making the following recommendations regarding physical contact with bats:

?People who come into contact with a bat whether or not there?s an obvious bite or scratch should contact their physician or local health unit for advice. This may include a recommendation for a vaccination that will protect against rabies;

?People should never touch sick or injured bats with bare hands. If contact happens, it?s important that the bat be retained for testing and health advice obtained;

?Pets should always be kept up to date with rabies shots to eliminate the possibility that a bat could infect them, and possibly transmit the infection to their owner; and

?Any northern residents who may have been in Vancouver?s Stanley Park this spring and who encountered and made contact with a skunk (or whose pet made physical contact with a skunk in the park) should call a local health unit for advice.

For more information on rabies or any other health issue, please call the BC NurseLine toll-free at 1-866-215-4700, or TTY at 1-866-889-4700 for the deaf and hearing-impaired. Registered nurses at this line can provide confidential health information and advice? 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Translation services are available in 130 languages.

See the BC HealthGuide on-line at www.bchealthguide.org for more information, or read the BC HealthFile on rabies: http://www.bchealthguide.org/healthfiles/hfile07.stm