AHS issues warning after bat with rabies located in Lethbridge

Number of rabies cases in Saskatchewan on the rise, at least 18 confirmed cases so far in 2016.
Number of rabies cases in Saskatchewan on the rise, at least 18 confirmed cases so far in 2016. File / Global News

A bat that was found by a golden retriever in west Lethbridge Tuesday has prompted Alberta Health Services to be extra vigilant around wild animals.
The dog found the bat lying on the sidewalk while out for a walk with his owners. The owners of the dog brought the bat to a local vet clinic where it was sent immediately for testing.

“The owner was experienced in handling bats and he contained the bat and then we sent it away and the bat came back positive for rabies,” explained Susan St. Croix, veterinarian at Park Pet Hospital.

The bat was euthanized and the dog was given the rabies vaccine and is now in quarantine at home for the next six months. Family members of the dog are now undergoing a series of post exposure rabies vaccinations.

“We are not sure if the dog was actually bitten or not, but we took preventative precautions of immunizing him within three hours of his exposure,” said St. Croix.

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There is only one way to be one-hundred per cent certain whether the dog was infected. This is done by taking a brain-tissue sample, but some veterinarians say dogs don’t usually survive the surgery.

“People think we can just take a blood sample and test them and we actually need a piece of the brain and they don’t survive this kind of procedure.”

Alberta Health Services is reminding all south zone residents that other wild mammals, like coyotes, raccoons and skunks, may also carry the rabies virus, and pose risks to human health.

“It’s a reminder that there are bats in southern Alberta and bats can be rabies carriers and in humans and animals it’s almost always fatal,” says Dr. Vivien Suttorp, South Zone Medical Officer of Health.

If you have been bitten or scratched by a stray or wild animal, wash the wound thoroughly with soap and water, and contact your local public health office as soon as possible,

Anyone with concerns about rabies exposure should contact Alberta Agriculture for Protocol Procedures or Alberta Health Link.