Rabies in Ontario - What should we do?

HAMILTON, ON, Dec. 10, 2015 /CNW/ - After four dead raccoons tested positive for rabies this month in Hamilton, Ontario, the virus has been making headlines across the province.

Many members of the general public have been left with the same response: I didn't think we had to worry about rabies in Ontario.

"The rabies virus, like other viruses, has a few different strains," says Kristina Cooper, RVT. "The recent positive cases of rabies found in Hamilton is raccoon strain rabies. This is significant as this particular strain has not been seen in a decade in Ontario and never seen in Hamilton. Until these cases were confirmed, the positive cases of rabies in Ontario, in the recent past, have been in bats."

Cooper, who is the Provincial Manager of the OAVT Rabies Response Program (RRP), confirms 11 bats have tested positive for rabies in the province so far in 2015 through the RRP.

The reason so many people believe that rabies is not something we have to worry about in Ontario is because of all of the work being done behind the scenes. Things like bait drops of the rabies vaccine and owners keeping their pets vaccinated, along with the surveillance work of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF), the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA), and the RRP, have kept this virus out of the spotlight.

"The RRP receives requests from all of Ontario's 36 Public Health Units when a human has had an exposure to a potential rabid animal where rabies can't be ruled out and the animal can't be quarantined," Cooper explains. "Highly trained Registered Veterinary Technicians, or RVTs, are dispatched to collect samples from suspect animals and package and ship them to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) for testing."

Ultimately, these four raccoons have led to an important conversation about the importance of vaccinating your pets against rabies. Ensuring that your dog, cat or ferret's rabies vaccines are current and up to date is not only the law across the majority of the province, but it is the most important thing you can do to protect your pets and the people who live with you against this fatal disease. 

Besides vaccinating your pets, Cooper says the best thing you can do is be aware of your environment.

"Keep your distance from wildlife," Cooper suggests. "All pets should be supervised when outside in the yard and should be leashed when going for walks to prevent an encounter with an infected animal."

If you or someone you know has been bitten or scratched by any animal, or has had exposure to saliva through an open wound or mucous membrane (eyes, nose, mouth), you should report it to your local public health unit for investigation. On the other hand, Cooper says that pet parents who have an animal who has been exposed to a potentially diseased animal, and no human contact is involved, should contact their veterinarian for advice.

For those people who are concerned about wildlife that may be displaying signs of rabies (aggressive or overly friendly behaviour, difficulty walking, excess salivation, difficulty breathing, paralysis, seizures etc.) they should contact their local municipal animal control service for assistance.


For more information on the OAVT Rabies Response Program: www.oavt.org/rrp
For more information about the Ontario Association of Veterinary Technicians (OAVT): www.oavt.org

SOURCE Ontario Association of Veterinary Technicians

Image with caption: "While four raccoons have tested positive for rabies in Hamilton, Ontario this month, the OAVT Rabies Response Program confirms 11 bats have also tested positive for the virus in the province since January. (CNW Group/Ontario Association of Veterinary Technicians)". Image available at: http://photos.newswire.ca/images/download/20151210_C9568_PHOTO_EN_44573.jpg

Image with caption: "Ontario Association of Veterinary Technicians (CNW Group/Ontario Association of Veterinary Technicians)". Image available at: http://photos.newswire.ca/images/download/20151210_C9568_PHOTO_EN_44572.jpg

For further information:

Natalie Thomas, Communications Manager, OAVT, Natalie@oavt.org, 519-836-4910 ext. 222

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Ontario Association of Veterinary Technicians

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