Fraser Health issues rabies warning after group tries to help injured bat in Belcarra

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      After a group of individuals attempted to help an injured bat, health authorities are warning about possible rabies exposures and are reminding people not to touch wild animals. 

      Fraser Health issued a public bulletin on July 4 about an incident that took place at White Pine Beach in Belcarra around 7:45 p.m. on July 3.

      Fraser Health stated that after a group of about nine people were handling an injured bat found on a floating dock at the park, it is advising anyone who was in contact with the bat to immediately visit the emergency department of the nearest hospital to be assessed for potential rabies exposure.

      Although the prevalence of rabies among bats (which Fraser Health explains are the “only natural reservoir of rabies” in B.C.) remains below one percent, Fraser Health states that the health risks caused by rabies are “severe”.  

      Rabies can be prevented by a vaccine but treatment must be applied as soon as possible for it to be effective.

      Also known as hydrophobia (because paralysis of the throat muscles causes fear of water), rabies symptoms in humans appear about three to eight weeks after exposure, but can also take up to several years to manifest, according to the B.C. Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC).

      The BCCDC states that human symptoms can include headaches, fever, difficulty swallowing, excessive drooling muscle spasm or weakness, and strange behavior. More information about rabies is available at the BCCDC website. 

      Fraser Health is also reminding people to not feed or touch wild animals, including bats.

      Anyone who finds an injured animal is advised to call the B.C. SPCA Provincial Call Centre at 1-855-622-7722.

      More information about bats in British Columbia can be found at the Community Bat Projects of B.C. website. 

      You can follow Craig Takeuchi on Twitter at @cinecraig or on Facebook.