The number of cases of rabies caused by the raccoon strain of the virus continues to climb in the province. Even though most wildlife is in hibernation, over 20 animals were newly diagnosed as positive for rabies since mid-December 2016. Included in these statistics are a llama in Haldimand County and a skunk in Hamilton, both with the raccoon strain, and a fox in Huron county with the Arctic fox strain. Although the majority of the infected animals are in the the Hamilton area, the disease is spreading outwards, with a current total of 277 cases of the raccoon strain of rabies. Most of the animals were raccoons and skunks, but one cat was also found to be carrying this deadly disease. In the province as a whole, since December 2015, there have been 283 diagnosed cases of rabies, mostly in wildlife. Six cases of rabies were found to be the Arctic fox strain of rabies. Prior to this, the last confirmed cases of raccoon strain rabies in Ontario was in 2005, and the last confirmed case of fox strain rabies was in 2012.
We expect that these numbers will continue to climb. In an effort to quell the tide, the Ministry of Natural Resources has accelerated and expanded their bait dropping program, in which they distribute oral baits inoculated with rabies vaccine into areas surrounding the locations where positive cases have been found. This includes the KW area. The bait contains fats, wax, icing sugar, vegetable oil, marshmallow flavouring and a dark green dye. It coats a blister pack containing an oral vaccine. Exposure to the baits is not harmful to people or pets, but it is wise to consult your doctor or veterinarian if you or your animal comes into contact with the vaccine in the bait.
One of our earlier “Doc Talks” blogs contains information about rabies and its risks to our animals and us, and we have been updating it as the information becomes available. So, rather than repeat it here, click here to follow a link to it. Although the overall risk of infection to the general public remains low, we must take commonsense precautions to protect ourselves and our pets from this fatal disease. Don’t feed wild animals, keep a safe distance from live or dead wild animals, and ensure that your pet’s rabies vaccines are kept current. Call us at (519) 742-2821 or email us at [email protected] if you are unsure whether your pet’s vaccine is current.
For more information about rabies in Ontario, and what to do if you may have come into contact with an animal with rabies, call us at the clinic, go online to https://www.ontario.ca/page/rabies, or to or call the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs at 1-877-424-1300.