A B.C. man died from rabies Saturday after he came into contact with a bat on Vancouver Island.
The provincial health officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry, confirmed that an unidentified 21-year-old man developed symptoms compatible with the disease six weeks after exposure.
Henry told the Vancouver Sun that the man had no visible bite marks or scratches.
“The thing with bats is their teeth are very small and their bite marks can be microscopic and you might not even notice them,” she said. “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.”
Doctors are now assessing family members, health-care workers and anyone else who may have come in contact with the man, and giving them post-exposure rabies preventive measures if necessary.
The last case of human rabies in B.C. was in 2003. he most recent case in Canada was in Ontario in 2012 and there have only been 24 known human cases of the disease nationwide since the 1920s. T
The Ministry of Health urged anyone in B.C. that comes in contact with a bat to wash the area with soap and water even if there are no marks on their skin. They should then consult a doctor as soon as possible.
The ministry said it would not release any additional information about the man to ensure the privacy of his family.