Bats are an important animal in the BC ecosystem however, as potential carriers of the rabies virus, it’s important to not touch them!
Rabies is deadly
Rabies is a serious and deadly disease if left untreated. The rabies virus spreads between mammals through contact with saliva and nervous tissue – usually by a bite. The virus then infects the brain and nervous system, and causes death of the infected mammal. In BC, only bats carry the rabies virus – other animals are rarely infected. In humans, rabies can be prevented if a person is immunized quickly after they are exposed to rabies.
Protecting yourself from rabies
The simplest way to protect yourself from rabies is to avoid contact with bats. Here are some more tips to protect yourself:
- Don’t touch bats: If you find a dead or sick bat, leave it be! If you need to move or handle it, do not touch it with your bare hands. Wear waterproof gloves or a double layer of plastic or use a tool such as a trowel or spade.
- Let trapped bats escape on their own: If a bat is in your home or enclosed space where people or pets go, let the bat fly out on its own. If this isn’t possible, contact a wildlife professional or pest control company to have someone capture it.
- If you have bats in your home, contact the BC Community Bat Program: 1-855-922-2287.
What to do if you touch a bat
If someone has touched a bat (even if there is no obvious bite or scratch), follow these steps:
- Wash the area with soap and water for at least 15 minutes. This greatly reduces the chance of rabies infection.
- Seek medical help from your health care provider or contact the Northern Health public health department immediately at 250-565-7322.
- The Northern Health Public Health team will assess the risk of rabies and may give a vaccine to prevent infection.
More information about rabies and its transmission can be found at:
- Rabies - HealthLinkBC
- Rabies - BC Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC)
- NH Virtual Clinic: Call 1-844-645-7811 from 10 am to 10 pm daily PST