Rabies outbreak in Ontario continues to spread

By January 23, 2017 February 17th, 2017 Uncategorized

Hello to all our faithful readers. Although normally Purr’ll writes our blog, she turned it over to Dr. Yuill today so that she could give you some updated information on the ongoing rabies outbreak in Ontario.

The number of cases of rabies caused by the raccoon strain of the virus continues to climb in the province, reaching a total of 277 cases by February 1, 2017, the last date for which statistics are available. Even though most wildlife is in hibernation in the winter months, more than 20 animals have been diagnosed as positive for rabies since mid-December 2016. The newest positive cases were found in Hamilton, Halton, and Brant. Although the majority of the infected animals are still being identified in Hamilton, the disease is spreading outwards. To date, most of the cases have been in raccoons and skunks, but one cat and one llama have been identified as being infected with 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, and none of these cases were in the Hamilton area. 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. To get the most recently reported statistics, click here.

We expect that these numbers will continue to climb, and we will see a further spread of the disease once the spring arrives. In the fall of 2016, in an effort to quell the tide, the Ministry of Natural Resources expanded their bait-dropping program. The baits contain an oral rabies vaccine enclosed in a teal green blister pack, which is coated with a combination of fats, waxes, icing sugar, vegetable oil, artificial marshmallow flavour anrabies-vaccine-bait-identification-p1-normal (2)d dark green dye.

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. A photo of the rabies bait is shown to the right. Bait dropping is suspended through the winter months.

One of our earlier 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 the Region of Waterloo website at  http://chd.region.waterloo.on.ca/en/healthylivinghealthprotection/rabies.asp, or call the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs at 1-877-424-1300. To view the most recent statistics on the rabies outbreak, click here.