In BC, the risk of rabies if there has been no contact with bats is exceedingly small. Vaccination against rabies should only be offered if contact with a bat or any other animal with suspect or confirmed rabies has occurred, or if you are working in high-risk rabies situations (e.g. veterinarians, laboratory workers).
There are currently rabies vaccines available for cats, dogs and ferrets. Your pets should be vaccinated, and their immunizations should be kept up to date. Even indoor cats should be vaccinated as they may escape or they can come into contact with bats that enter houses. Otherwise, your pet could be infected by a rabid animal, and your pet could in turn infect you.
If you are considering adopting a new pet, please be aware that dogs and cats imported from other countries, as well as other parts of Canada (particularly the North), could be infected with the rabies virus. The risk is particularly high for kittens and puppies which are too young to vaccinate against rabies. In order to enter Canada, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency requires proof of recent rabies vaccination for dogs and cats older than 3 months of age (http://www.inspection.gc.ca/animals/terrestrial-animals/imports/policies/live-animals/pets/eng/1326600389775/1326600500578)
What can I do to prevent rabies while traveling?
If you will be traveling for a month or more to areas where rabies is often found, consult a travel clinic to be vaccinated against rabies before you go.
If you are possibly exposed to rabies in another country:
- Rabies is not well controlled in many other parts of the world. If you are bitten by any animal, especially an unprovoked attack, you should get medical advice about rabies prevention, no matter how long ago you were bitten.
- If you receive rabies vaccination outside Canada, the U.S.A. and Europe, obtain the name of the immune globulin and vaccine provided (if possible, obtain the labels or packaging). Only certain products are approved by the World Health Organization (WHO) for preventing human rabies. Bring these products or product names to your Canadian doctor or call your local public health unit (http://www.immunizebc.ca/finder ) to ask them for advice once you get home.
- If you do not have access to WHO-approved immune globulin and vaccine overseas, consider returning to Canada immediately for medical attention.