People who handled injured wild bat at B.C. lake may have been exposed to rabies

White Pine Beach is seen Sunday, July 26, 2020.

Fraser Health is warning that a group of people who handled an injured bat on Saturday evening could be at risk for rabies.

In a statement Sunday morning, the health authority said that it received a report that around 7:45 p.m. on July 3, about nine people were “handling an injured bat on the floating dock portion of the park,” at White Pine Beach on Sasamat Lake in Belcarra Regional Park.

As a precaution, Fraser Health said that anyone who touched the bat should head immediately to the nearest hospital emergency room to be assessed for possible rabies exposure.

Health care professionals will also conduct “a public health risk assessment” when the people admit themselves to the hospital.

“While the prevalence of rabies among bats is low (less than one per cent of all bats), the health risks of rabies are severe,” said the health authority.

In B.C., the only “natural reservoir” for rabies is in bats, and while the disease is preventable in humans with a vaccine, treatment needs to be administered as soon as possible after a person is exposed.

The health authority also warns that people should not touch or feed any wild animals, even if they are injured.

“If you come across an injured bat or other animal, it is best to call the BC SPCA Provincial Call Centre at 1-855-622-7722 for guidance and assistance and to find a local wildlife rehabilitator.”