York Region has received confirmation a bat has tested positive for the rabies virus in Markham. This is the first confirmed rabies case in the region since 2017.
While the percentage of rabies-infected bats in Ontario is considered low, people should still avoid approaching or coming into contact with them. They are wild animals and should not be kept as pets in or near your home.
The rabies virus affects the central nervous system of warm-blooded mammals, including humans, and is transmitted through a bite, lick or scratch from an infected animal. While most reported cases involve wild animals such as bats, foxes, raccoons and skunks, dogs and cats are also at risk. Infection with the rabies virus is usually fatal. A post-exposure vaccine is available for people who come into contact with a rabid animal.
York Region Public Health officials investigate all animal exposure incidents. If you suspect you may have been bitten, scratched or had contact with a bat or another animal, immediately wash the wound with soap and water for a minimum of 15 minutes. You should then seek medical attention and report the incident at 1-800-361-5653.
Tips to avoid potential infection include:
- if you discover a bat or another wild animal that is injured, acting strange or dead, do not touch it – contact a wildlife or pest removal company to remove it;
- if you discover a bat in your home, leave the room, close the door and contact a wildlife or pest removal company – never attempt to catch the bat yourself;
- bats and other wild animals can transmit the rabies virus to domestic pets such as dogs and cats – ensure your pets are up-to-date on their rabies vaccination; check the York Region events calendar for low-cost rabies clinics dates and locations;
- do not feed, touch or relocate any wild or stray animal or allow pets to come into contact with them;
- if you suspect your pets or livestock have come in contact with a bat or another wild or stray animal, contact your veterinarian as soon as possible;
- take measures to keep wild or stray animals away from your home: store green bins and garbage containers inside the garage or basement, contact a professional company to “bat-proof” your home.
Visit york.ca/rabies for more information about rabies control.