BC man dies of rare case of rabies infection

Grant Boone
July 19, 2019

"Nick was an absolutely wonderful young man and we always admired how unbelievable he was with all the children he taught - he was truly talented", said one commenter.

"Nicholas, you made such a tremendous impact on the people of this community, on the kids who saw you as a hero and friend, on the parents who quickly knew they could trust you absolutely with helping to guide and shape the lives of their kids, to the family of Cascadia, and to everyone you met", one commenter wrote.

"Clearly, in this case, there was at least a small puncture wound that led to the infection".

Henry said that while there is no recorded history of rabies being transferred between humans, the man's family members and health-care workers who treated him in recent weeks have been offered the vaccine "to err on the side of caution".

Henry declined to give further details about the exposure, including a more precise location of the encounter and species of bat. Fear of water, and excessive salivation are also common symptoms. The man encountered the infected bat on Vancouver Island in May.

It is extremely rare for humans to die of rabies, said Henry. The first was in 1985 and the second in 2003.

According to HealthLink BC, animals with rabies may act strangely but not always aggressively.

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"Any contact with a bat at all is risky", said Henry.

Officials are reminding anyone who comes in contact with a bat to the wash the area with soap and water regardless of whether or not there is a bite or scratch. Preventative measures are being taken when necessary in case of post-exposure rabies. "Unfortunately, with rabies, once the symptoms start to come together it is nearly universally fatal".

Pet owners are advised to make sure their animals' vaccines are up to date and consult a veterinarian if their pets have been in contact with a bat. Rabid bats have been found in nearly every county. "Most bats don't carry rabies, so that's another reason why this is so rare", she said.

There have only been two cases of ABLV in humans in Australia, both of which were fatal, according to the Australian Bat Society.

Dagenais said a bat should never be handled with bare hands. Often introduced through a bite or scratch, it stays in the infected area, multiplying stealthily before traveling into the nerves, spinal cord and brain. "It's very, very important people wear gloves". About 13% of bats that were tested in the province were rabies positive.

"Bats also lick themselves and the rabies virus has been found on the outside of their body, so if a bat brushes against you, the virus can be transmitted through a mucus membrane, via your eyes or mouth". In some countries, dogs are carriers of rabies, but that has been eliminated in Canada thanks to vaccination programs.

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