August 7, 2014 7:01 pm
Updated: August 7, 2014 7:15 pm

Recent rise in bat encounters prompts rabies warning

Closeup of a little brown Bat, photographed on July 23, 2007. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ HO- Joanna Coleman

LETHBRIDGE – Alberta Health Services is issuing a rabies warning after a recent rise in bat encounters across southern Alberta.

The majority of bats don’t carry rabies, but it’s one of the few animals in Alberta able to transmit the disease to humans and pets.

“We just want people to be aware that bats and people aren’t a good mix,” said South Zone Medical Officer of Health Dr. Karin Goodison.

Rabies attacks the central nervous system and following the onset of symptoms is almost always fatal.

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In humans, early signs of infection include fever and a prickling or burning sensation at the site of the bite. Later, an infected person may experience restlessness, delirium and a gradual paralysis of muscles, leading to a coma or even death.

“Bat bites or scratches may be so small that you don’t notice them, but this doesn’t mean they aren’t serious,” said Goodison. “Bites – which can look like insect bites, with tiny puncture wounds less than one centimetre apart – shouldn’t be ignored.” If you are bitten, wash the wound with soap and water and seek medical attention promptly.”

In July a golden retriever was put in quarantine after finding a live bat in west Lethbridge.

According to Park Pet Hospital the bat was euthanized and the dog given the rabies vaccine.

To reduce your risk of rabies, Alberta Health Services suggests securing open areas around your home, including pet doors, chimneys and unscreened windows.

“Bats are great for getting rid of insects, but we prefer them to be outside of your home,” added Goodison.

The last reported fatal case of human rabies in Alberta was in 2006.

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