Gateway Gazette

Protect yourself against rabies, report all wild animal bites

Following the confirmation of rabies in a bat found in the Lethbridge-area, Alberta Health Services (AHS) is reminding ALL South Zone residents that wild mammals – bats, coyotes, raccoons and skunks – may carry the rabies virus, and pose risk to human health.

Rabies – which attacks the central nervous system of warm-blooded animals, including humans – is almost always fatal following the onset of symptoms. In humans, symptoms initially include fever, cough, or sore throat, followed by restlessness, hallucinations, and seizures. The final stage is coma and death.

“Each year in Alberta, a number of bats test positive for rabies,” says South Zone Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Vivien Suttorp. “Bats can pass rabies onto to other bats, pets or stray animals, which can in turn put humans at risk.”

Dr. Suttorp advises some simple things to reduce risk of contracting the rabies virus:

  • Avoid contact with bats and other wild animals. Never touch or try to pet or catch a wild or stray animal. Teach children to avoid these animals.
  • Have pets vaccinated against rabies. If you aren’t the first owner of your pet, ask for a certificate of rabies vaccination. If no document exists, confirm with a veterinarian that the pet got the vaccine. Remember: vaccination of household pets decreases the risk.
  • Secure garbage and other items that can attract wild and stray animals.
  • Secure open areas of your home, such as pet doors, chimneys, unscreened windows or any place that wild or stray animals could enter.
  • Never handle a dead animal without proper protection.

If you have been bitten or scratched by a stray or wild animal, wash the wound thoroughly with soap and water, and contact your local public health office (http://www.albertahealthservices.ca/facilities.asp?pid=fgeo&geo=13) as soon as possible. You can also call Health Link Alberta at 1-866-408-LINK (5465).

If your household pet has been bitten by a stray or wild animal, please immediately take your pet to a veterinarian.

Alberta Health Services is the provincial health authority responsible for planning and delivering health supports and services for more than four million adults and children living in Alberta. Its mission is to provide a patient-focused, quality health system that is accessible and sustainable for all Albertans.

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