SASKATOON – Pet owners north of Saskatoon are being warned to protect their animals against rabies after a string of cases involving bats.
Norsask Veterinary Group, which has clinics in Warman and Rosthern, sent out a notice to clients after three bats recently tested positive for the deadly virus.
Veterinarian John Ayres says it can be tough to control where rabies shows up, saying it “floats around.”
Rabies is a viral disease that attacks the central nervous system of animals and people.
Once clinical signs appear, it’s almost always fatal.
Ayres says vaccinating animals is the only way to safe guard against the virus.
“I always explain to my clients when I vaccinate their dog for rabies, I am vaccinating the dog for rabies to protect the dog from rabies, but I’m also vaccinating the dog for rabies to make sure that the dog doesn’t act as a potential vector to expose them to rabies as well,” says Ayres.
The three rabid bats were found in Corman Park and the Rural Municipality of Laird near Rosthern.
In the Rosthern case, there was human exposure. Julie Kryzanowski, deputy medical health officers with the Saskatoon Health Region said they conducted a risk assessment on the people who came in contact with the rabid bat and each was given a vaccine to prevent infection.
Kryzanowski said it’s not uncommon for the region to receive reports from people bitten by animals suspected of having rabies.
“Under the public health act? Animals’ bites are reportable to public health exactly for this reason. So we can assess the risk of rabies exposure and then offer the vaccine and immune globulin to prevent human cases.”
Positive cases of the disease in humans are extremely rare in Canada. Since the mid-80s there has been only three cases. The last confirmed case in Saskatchewan was in 1970.
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency keeps track of cases in Canada. As of July the agency has confirmed nine cases in the province. The majority were in skunks and bats.