An Ingersoll, Ont., resident is undergoing preventive treatment for rabies after being bitten by a bat that later tested positive for the virus, Southwestern Public Health said on Friday.
Officials with the health unit, whose jurisdiction covers Elgin and Oxford counties, say the incident serves as a reminder for members of the community to practise safe animal handling, and to avoid contact with wildlife.
The resident had discovered the bat, which appeared to be injured, on July 3, and made contact with the animal in an attempt to remove it, the health unit said, adding that the bat later tested positive for rabies on July 7.
In a statement, SWPH’s program manager of infectious diseases, Elaine Reddick, said it was important that members of the public seek medical attention if they are bitten by any animal, wild or not.
“This case should also be a reminder for residents to avoid contact with wildlife, always supervise pets outdoors, and vaccinate pets against rabies as advised by their vet,” Reddick said.
According to the province, 49 rabies cases were reported in Ontario in 2020, 40 of them the result of bat-strain rabies. In 2019, 65 rabies cases were confirmed in the province, and in 2018, 104 cases were confirmed.
Humans can become infected by the rabies virus through the bite of an infected animal, or by having the infected saliva of that animal get into your mouth, nose, eyes or an open cut, sore or wound, the province says. The rabies virus, if left untreated, is almost always fatal.
Rabies can be treated with a vaccine, but only if treatment is sought before symptoms appear. Once symptoms appear, it’s too late for treatment, according to the province.
Symptoms usually appear within two to eight weeks, with early symptoms including numbness around the site of the bite, fever, headache and feeling sick. More information can be found on the province’s website.
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