Rabies is a virus that captures the imagination. The Hollywood version doesn’t just induce excessive foaming at the mouth but also causes humans to transform into vicious animals, attacking people with their teeth. In reality, rabies’ affect on human behavior sometimes involves heightened agitation and anxiety, but no animalistic aggression. Nevertheless, the virus can kill, and so the possibility of an outbreak is always taken with deadly seriousness.
Late yesterday (July 16), the B.C. government confirmed a human case of rabies that originated on Vancouver Island.
“The adult male was in contact with a bat in mid-May 2019 and developed symptoms compatible with rabies six weeks later,” reads a ministry of health media release. “Family members, close community contacts and health-care workers who cared for this person are being assessed and given post-exposure rabies preventive measures, if needed.”
The viral-rabies infection resulted in the man’s death.
“If anyone in B.C. comes in contact with a bat (even if there is no obvious bite or scratch), wash the area with soap and water,” the release continues. “Then consult a health-care provider or local public health department immediately. They will assess the risk of rabies and may provide a vaccine to prevent infection.”
According to the province, this was the first human case of rabies in B.C. since 2003 and the first case in Canada since 2012, when there was an infection in Ontario.
In B.C., bats are the only animal that is known to carry the rabies virus, and it’s believed that about 13 percent of them do.
“This presents an ongoing risk for people and for companion animals, such as cats and dogs,” the release emphasizes. “It is important to ensure pets' rabies vaccinations are up to date. If you believe your pet has had contact with a bat, consult your veterinarian.”