The man who died in B.C.’s first fatal case of rabies in more than 15 years has been identified as a popular taekwondo instructor from Vancouver Island.
Nick Major, 21, went into a coma and died over the weekend.
A family member confirmed a GoFundMe campaign supporting Major’s family in the wake of his passing, but said the family did not wish to speak about it at this time.
Health officials say a man made contact with a bat on Vancouver Island in mid-May, but did not manifest symptoms until six weeks later.
In a Facebook post, Parksville’s Cascadia Martial Arts described Major as “our head instructor and dear friend.”
WATCH: B.C. man dies after coming in contact with a bat
The company also shared a post from Major’s mother Carmen thanking the community for their support.
“It is with broken hearts we said good bye to our precious angel,” said the post.
“Please continue to love & support each other as we face the shock & sorrow from this huge loss. He was an amazing & wonderful young man loved by so many.”
Comments posted to the company’s page lauded Major as “an amazing person who has built so many kids’ confidence,” and “a remarkable and inspiring young man.”
According to Major’s Facebook account, he had attended Parksville’s Ballenas Secondary School.
The details about how Major came in contact with the bat are still unclear, and Major’s family told health officials he was not bitten or scratched.
Dr. Eleni Galantis with the B.C. Centre for Disease Control said it would be entirely possible to receive a scratch from a bat without knowing it.
“But that might not be visible, because bats are such small animals and the scratches or bites would be extremely small.”
WATCH: BC man dies after contracting rabies
Dr. Bonnie Henry, B.C.’s chief medical health officer, said health officials did not realize Major had contracted rabies until the disease had progressed significantly .
“The story didn’t come together very quickly. Unfortunately, with rabies, once the symptoms start to come together it is almost universally fatal.”
The Ministry of Health said that family, friends, health officials and anyone who was in close contact with the patient were being given post-exposure preventative measures.
While upwards of 60,000 people die worldwide every year from rabies, the virus is extremely rare in Canada.
Just 25 Canadians have lost their lives to it since the 1920s, according to federal statistics.
If someone is infected health officials say it is crucial that they get immediate post-exposure treatment.
Galantis said if left unchecked, rabies will eventually lead to brain damage, paralysis, coma and eventually death.
According to the province, bats are the only known rabies carriers in B.C., with about 13 per cent of the animals testing positive for it.
It says anyone who comes in contact with a bat, whether or not they are bitten or scratched, should wash the area with soap and water and then contact a health-care provider.
The ministry also says people should ensure their pets’ rabies vaccinations are up to date.