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Rabies in bats confirmed in Southern Alberta

Although any wild or domestic mammal (such as cats, dogs, coyotes and skunks) can be infected by rabies, two confirmed rabid bats were recently found in Southern Alberta. This is the time of year we typically see rabies cases.

It's also a good time to review what rabies is, how it is transmitted and how to prevent humans from contracting it. Although there is preventive treatment (like vaccine) for rabies, there is no current treatment once rabies is contracted, and rabies is almost always fatal once symptoms start.

Rabies is a virus that affects the central nervous system, which includes the brain and spinal cord. It is spread to humans when the saliva of an infected animal makes contact with an open wound in the form of a bite or even a scratch.

Early symptoms of rabies are: headache, fever, numbness at the site of the bite or scratch, irritability and feeling worried. Symptoms then quickly turn to confusion, seizures, paralysis and death. These symptoms can start as soon as a few days after contact, up to a few years later.

If you are exposed to, or touched by a bat, immediately contact the Environmental Health Inspector for your area:

It is important to vaccinate your domestic pets (e.g. cats, dogs) to prevent them from contracting rabies and, therefore, the possibility of rabies being transferred to you. Please speak with your local veterinarian for more information.

Submitted by Lori Yokoyama-Red Gun, a Registered Nurse at South Shore Medical Clinic in Brooks, AB.

photo credit: USFWS/Ann Froschauer
(licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.)

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