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Bat tests positive for Rabies in Norfolk County

SIMCOE, ON, MAY 21, 2010 – A bat captured at a Norfolk County home has tested positive for rabies, the Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit reports. The bat marks the first confirmed case of rabies the Health Unit has encountered in the region since 2007.

“This bat proves we still have rabies activity in the area,” said Kris Lutzi, Acting Program Coordinator for the Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit’s Healthy Environment Team. “Residents need to remain aware of the risk and take precautions to protect themselves and their pets from the disease.”

While a total of eight bats tested positive for rabies in Haldimand and Norfolk between 2000 and 2007, the Health Unit has not come across a rabid four-legged creature since 1997. Rabies is also on the decline across the province. The 50 confirmed rabies cases in Ontario in 2009 marked an all-time low.

“Although rabies is quite rare in our area, the disease is almost always fatal once symptoms appear,” noted Lutzi. “If you have had direct contact with a bat, the best thing to do is to wash the affected area right away, seek medical advice immediately and notify the Health Unit of the incident. If the bat is captured or found dead, and direct contact resulting in penetration of the skin has occurred, the bat will be sent for rabies testing.”

You cannot tell if a bat has rabies simply by looking at it. A lab test is necessary to confirm if the bat carries the disease. However, certain signs may be an indicator that a bat is rabid. Rabid bats often do not fly well, or lose their ability to fly. If a bat is active during the day, crawling along the ground or acting unusual, there is a chance it may be rabid. Rabid bats are rarely aggressive.

To protect your family and pets from bat exposure, take the following precautions:
·Avoid direct contact with bats (e.g. handling a bat with bare hands)
·Teach children to never handle unfamiliar animals, wild or domestic, especially bats.
·“Bat-proof’ your home by filling, caulking or repairing any openings larger than ¼ inch by ½ inch, use window screens and chimney caps, and ensure all doors to the outside close tightly.
·Keep family pets up to date with rabies vaccinations.
For additional information about rabies, or to report a suspected rabid bat exposure, contact the Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit at 519-426-6170 or 905-318-6623, or visitwww.hnhu.org.contact:

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Kris Lutzi
Acting Program Coordinator
Healthy Environment Team
Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit
Ext. 3261 at either 519-426-6170 or 905-318-6623