The B.C. Ministry of Health has confirmed the first case of rabies in B.C. since 2003. A man died from the infection after coming into contact with a bat on Vancouver Island in mid-May. (File Photo)

B.C. man dies from rabies after contact with Vancouver Island bat

Last known case of human rabies in B.C. was 16 years ago

A B.C. man has died from a viral rabies infection after coming into contact with a bat on Vancouver Island in May.

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry confirmed the rare case of rabies in a press release from the B.C. Ministry of Health. The man, whose identity was not released, came into contact with the bat in mid-May and developed symptoms “compatible with rabies six weeks later.”

His infection is the first case of human rabies in the province since 2003 and one of only 24 known cases in Canada since the 1920s – the most recent in Ontario in 2012 and Alberta in 2007.

“While the exposure in this case was on Vancouver Island, bats in all areas of B.C. are known to carry rabies,” the Ministry stated. “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.”

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The Ministry asks that anyone who comes in contact with a bat immediately wash the area with soap and water, even if there is no obvious bite or scratch, and consult a health-care provider or local public health public health department immediately where a vaccine to prevent infection may be provided.

About 13 per cent of B.C. bats tested in B.C. came back positive for rabies, the Ministry said.

“This presents an ongoing risk for people and for companion animals, such as cats and dogs. 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.”

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