Group that handled bat in Belcarra park could have been exposed to rabies: officials

A group of people who handled an injured bat at White Pine Beach in Belcarra on Saturday may have been exposed to rabies, according to Fraser Health. File Photo / Global News

Fraser Health is warning a group of people who came in contact with an injured bat at White Pine Beach in Belcarra on Saturday to seek medical attention immediately.

The alert is the result of potential exposure to rabies. Fraser Health says a group of about nine people were handling the injured bat on the floating dock portion of the park around 7:45 p.m.

Bats are the only animal that act as a natural reservoir for rabies in B.C., and while the health authority says only about one per cent of the animals carry the virus, the possible health risk it presents is so severe that anyone potentially exposed should seek immediate treatment.

READ MORE: B.C. man dies of rabies, first confirmed human death in the province since 2003

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In 2019, a B.C. man died of a rabies infection, after coming in contact with a bat on Vancouver Island.

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Click to play video: 'B.C. rabies victim identified'
B.C. rabies victim identified

The man did not manifest symptoms until about six weeks later, and as a result, did not get treatment for the virus until it had progressed significantly.

Rabies is vaccine preventable, but Fraser Health says it is important for anyone who was potentially exposed to seek treatment immediately.

People recreating outdoors are also reminded never to feed or touch wildlife, including bats.

Anyone who finds an injured animal should contact the BC SPCA Provincial Call Centre at 1-855-622-7722 for help to find a local wildlife rehabilitation centre.

While upwards of 60,000 people die worldwide every year from rabies, the virus is extremely rare in Canada.

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Just 25 Canadians have lost their lives to it since the 1920s, according to federal statistics.

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