2 bat bite incidents prompt rabies warning in southern Alberta

WATCH ABOVE: Two bat bites in just one week has Alberta Health Services on high alert for rabies in southern Alberta. Quinn Campbell reports.

LETHBRIDGE- Two bat bites in just one week has Alberta Health Services on alert in the southern part of the province.

“If humans get rabies, it’s a 100 per cent fatal,” said Dr. Karen Goodison with AHS South Zone.

Both bites were reported in southern Alberta, one near Lethbridge and the other in the Medicine Hat area.

AHS said it’s important to report any wild animal bites to a public health office or Health Link.

Wild mammals like bats, coyotes, raccoons and skunks can carry rabies, but so can house pets or farm animals like horses and cows.

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Dr. Ryan Mohr with Ranch Docs Veterinary Services said vaccinating your pets is very important.

“Generally we recommend vaccinating at eight, 12 and 16 weeks, and on the final vaccination we will include a rabies vaccine,” he said. “That vaccine is boosted at a year old and then we administer it every three years after that.”

This is the time of year rabies is most common, and Dr. Mohr said it can take months for symptoms to show in your pets.

“Generally speaking, it can be as quick as a week or up to three months. If an animal is bitten by a wild species and you suspect that the animal could be infected with rabies, we actually recommend quarantining and isolating the animal for up to six months. The rabies vaccine is obviously very important because it protects against rabies, which has zoonotic potential and can spread to humans.”

Since 2003, 26 bats, two cats and one dog have tested positive for rabies in Alberta.

Dr. Goodison said people typically put themselves at risk when trying to remove bats that have wiggled their way into a home.

“They can get in a really tiny hole about the size of a quarter, so just make sure your buildings are covered up properly so there are no sites for the animal to sneak into. If you do find a bat in your home, we do recommend you call a professional for removal.”

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