Canada: 1st human rabies case reported since 2012

The British Columbia Ministry of Health reported a human rabies case in a resident who has subsequently died. This is the first human rabies case in the province in 16 years and in Canada in seven years.

The adult male was in contact with a bat in mid-May 2019 and developed symptoms compatible with rabies six weeks later.

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

The most-recent case of human rabies in B.C. was in 2003. Overall, in Canada, there have been only 24 known cases since the 1920s. The most-recent cases in Canada were in Ontario in 2012 and Alberta in 2007.

Bats are the only known carriers of the rabies virus in the province. About 13% of bats tested in B.C. are positive for rabies. 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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