The discovery of a rabid bat in Toronto has public health officials reminding people to avoid all contact with wild animals.
Lab results confirmed the first case of a rabid bat in the city since 2016, Toronto Public Health announced in a news release Monday. No details were available on where the bat was found.
Rabies is a viral infection that affects the nervous system of warm-blooded animals including humans. The rabies virus is spread through the saliva of an infected animal, usually entering through a bite or more rarely a scratch.
Left untreated before the appearance of symptoms, which can include headache, malaise, nausea, fatigue and pain where bitten, rabies can be fatal. Treatment with postinfection vaccine is considered very effective.
While Toronto officials noted that transmission of rabies by bats to humans is rare, and there is an “overall low risk of rabies in bats in Ontario,” deaths do occur in Canada.
Last July, Nick Major, a 21-year Vancouver Island martial arts instructor, died about six weeks after coming into contact with a rabid bat.
The bat had “run into” Major’s hand in daytime near Tofino, officials said at the time, adding that, since the 1920s, there have been two dozen known cases of bats infecting Canadians with rabies. Major apparently didn’t realize his skin was punctured or that he had been infected.
Toronto Public Health says anyone who does come into contact with a bat, or other potentially rabid animal, should wash the bite or wound with soap and water for at least 15 minutes, apply antiseptic, record location of exposure and other details, and seek medical attention.
Public health also advises Torontonians to take precautions against exposure including:
- Staying away from all wild animals, and not feeding or petting animals including raccoons and squirrels.
- Ensuring pets’ rabies vaccinations are up to date.
- ”Bat-proofing” homes including caulking any holes or entryways, installing chimney caps and keeping exterior doors tightly closed.
Get more City Hall in your inbox
Get an inside look at what’s really going on at City Hall in our Hall Monitor newsletter.