Low Cost Rabies Clinics
The Haldimand and Norfolk Counties are not hosting low-cost rabies clinics at this time. For more information about low-cost rabies clinics offered in neighbouring municipalities please refer to Rabies Vaccine Clinic Listings- Ontario, Canada
Raccoon Rabies Update
The raccoon strain of rabies has been found in Haldimand County, as shown by an increasing number of raccoons testing positive for the rabies virus since December of 2015. While the risk to the public remains low during this outbreak, prevention is the best way to reduce transmission of the rabies virus, such as avoiding contact with wild animals and ensuring that pets like cats and dogs have valid and up-to-date rabies vaccinations.
Additional Action Being Taken During the Raccoon Rabies Outbreak
Rabies and Bats
Why should I be concerned about rabies and bats?
What should I do if I come into contact with a bat?
- What is rabies?
- How is rabies transmitted?
- What are the symptoms of rabies?
- What is the role of the Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit in potential rabies exposures?
- How do I prevent exposure to rabies?
- Pre-Exposure Vaccination
- What do I do if I am bit, scratched or exposed to the saliva of an animal that carries rabies?
- Which treatments are available if I am exposed to rabies?
- What do I do if I come across a deceased animal, but I have not been exposed to it?
Rabies is a viral disease that attacks the nervous system of all warm-blooded animals, including humans. Rabies commonly affects raccoons, foxes, skunks, bats, cats, dogs and cattle. If you are bitten or scratched by an animal, it is important to seek medical treatment right away. Once rabies’ symptoms appear, the virus is almost always fatal in animals and humans.
The rabies virus is transmitted through the saliva or brain/nervous system tissue of an infected animal. Most exposures result from the bite of an infected animal. Rabies transmission from infected animals can also occur from scratches, exposure of mucous membranes (e.g. eyes, nose, mouth, open wounds) to the virus, and possibly from inhaling airborne particles of the virus while exploring bat infested caves. Unfortunately, animals do not have to show symptoms before transmission can occur.
Contact with animal blood, urine or feces is not considered to be a risk of exposure and the routine handling of an animal (e.g. petting) is not usually a concern unless a mucous membrane (described above) or open wound is exposed to infected saliva.
Locally, only a few species are important as carriers for the virus including skunks, bats, foxes, coyotes and raccoons. As carriers, these animals can be long-term hosts of the virus and may not display any symptoms, creating the potential for a greater spread of the disease. While these carriers are of particular concern when attempting to eliminate the virus from the province, all warm-blooded animals are capable of transmitting the virus and thus, must be investigated when involved in a potential human exposure such as a bite or scratch.
The rabies virus causes swelling of the brain in all warm-blooded animals. Symptoms can appear in one of two ways:
- Paralysis resulting in trouble walking, unusual facial expressions or difficulty swallowing (drooling)
- Wild animals may become unafraid of humans and unusually friendly
- Nocturnal wild animals may become active during the day
- Domestic pets that are usually friendly may withdraw or hide
- Aggressive or excited behaviour in both wild and domestic animals
- Violent behaviour expressed to other animals, objects, or self-mutilation
- Uncontrollable tremors or shaking
These symptoms usually lead to central nervous system complications, weakness, difficulty breathing, foaming or drooling at the mouth and eventually death. Animals infected with rabies can spread the virus in the days before these symptoms appear.
Early symptoms of rabies in people usually seem like flu symptoms, including general weakness or discomfort, fever or headache and may last for 2 to 10 days. Bite sites may feel itchy, uncomfortable or have a prickling sensation, leading to central nervous system complications, anxiety, agitation and confusion. As the disease develops, additional symptoms can include restlessness, hallucinations, trouble sleeping and other abnormal behaviour. Rabies can present as paralytic or furious symptoms in humans as well as in animals.
Symptoms usually appear in three to eight weeks following exposure but can appear as early as nine days or as long as several years afterwards.
By law, all persons aware of an incident where rabies may have been transmitted to a person must report the incident to the Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit (HNHU). In most instances, healthcare providers, veterinarians, animal control workers and the police will report such incidents, but any person can do so. Please use this link to access the HNHU Rabies Investigation Form. This report can be faxed to the HNHU at 519-427-5907.
Following notification, the HNHU will assess the incident and take action to protect the victim from acquiring rabies. Actions taken by the HNHU depend on the type of animal involved, as well as its history:
- Contacting the potentially exposed individual(s), pet owners, medical professionals and other applicable people involved in the exposure to investigate the case and provide information to protect the public from rabies transmission.
- Wildlife can be euthanized and tested for the rabies virus.
- Domestic dogs and cats can be confined for 10 days, usually on the pet owner’s property, to rule out transmission at the time of the bite.
- If a domestic pet is alive and healthy in appearance at the end of the 10 day confinement period, it is unlikely rabies was transmitted during the exposure.
- If the domestic pet becomes sick, or goes missing during the 10 day confinement period, the exposed person should contact their healthcare provider to discuss obtaining a post-exposure vaccination, in addition to alerting the HNHU of the pet’s status.
- In the case of stray animals, and animals not available for confinement, a risk assessment will be conducted to determine if the person exposed needs post-exposure vaccination.
- High risk cases and those exposed to animals positive for the rabies virus are advised to receive a post-exposure vaccination, which is arranged by the health unit and the healthcare provider.
- Animals that are deceased after the potential rabies exposure may be tested for the rabies virus if possible.
How to protect yourself, your family, and your pets from rabies:
- Stay away from and do not touch unfamiliar animals as well as animals acting strangely.
- Supervise children when they are around animals. Accidents do happen.
- Teach children to avoid touching animals unless permission is given.
- Pets such as cats and dogs should be vaccinated for rabies at the age of 3 months, and the vaccination should be kept up-to-date. It’s the law in Ontario.
- Feed pets indoors. Feeding pets outdoors can attract other unwanted animals.
- Do not let pets roam free.
- Prevent pets from coming into contact with wildlife.
- Do not keep wild animals as pets.
- Keep your garbage securely covered.
- Report all incidents where rabies may have been transmitted as well as potentially rabid animals as outlined below.
Potential Human Exposure (e.g. animal bite, scratch)
Potential domestic pet/animal exposure with no human contact (e.g. pets or livestock fighting with wildlife)
Suspected rabid wildlife that is alive or injured with no known human or animal contact
Suspected rabid wildlife that is deceased with no known human or animal contact
Report the incident to the Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit:
1-877-298-5888 after hours
Contact your veterinarian to assess the risk to your animal(s).
Veterinarians seeking additional assistance with assessment or management can contact the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs’ Agricultural Information Contact Centre
Contact the local animal control:
OR, report the incident to the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry Rabies Hotline
Report the incident to the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry Rabies Hotline
A vaccine is available but it is not one that is publicly funded like measles, polio, pertussis, tetanus, etc. Individuals who do routinely obtain the rabies vaccine are often in occupations involving regular contact with animals such as veterinarians, animal control workers and animal researchers. Those seeking vaccination for rabies due to their occupation should consult their healthcare provider as the Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit (HNHU) will not provide the vaccine or immunization for such purposes. The HNHU will only provide rabies vaccine to the person’s healthcare provider where the results of the HNHU’s assessment and investigation of a possible exposure incident indicates that post-exposure vaccination is required.
By law, all dogs and cats three months of age and over must have an up-to-date rabies vaccination status. Failure to do so can result in legal action, including ticketing, or a court appearance. This requirement not only protects your dog or cat from getting rabies, but it also helps protect against a rabies outbreak in the local animal population and people caring for or coming into contact with the animals. Rabies vaccinations may be repeated annually, every two or three years, depending on the type of vaccine your veterinarian feels is most suitable for your pet.
Every owner or person having the care or custody of a horse, cow, bull, steer, calf or sheep shall ensure that each such animal is immunized against rabies. Rabies immunization does not apply to a horse, cow, bull, steer, calf or sheep where the animal is accessible only to the person or persons who are responsible for the care and control of such animal or where the only time the animal is accessible by persons other than the animal’s caretaker is when the animal is at a seasonal agricultural fair including those held by an agricultural society constituted under the Agricultural and Horticultural Organizations Act, unless the animal is part of an interactive display such as a petting zoo
- Wash the exposed area with warm water and soap immediately for at least 15 minutes.
- Seek medical attention immediately.
- Do not try to capture a bat or wild animal that has potentially exposed you to the rabies virus. A professional should be contacted to capture the animal.
- Report the potential rabies exposure to the HNHU at 519-426-6170 or 905-318-6623, or 1-877-298-5888 after 4:30 pm Monday to Friday, on weekends and holidays.
- If bit by a domestic pet, obtain the pet owner’s contact information if possible so that the HNHU can investigate the potential rabies exposure.
Your healthcare provider will determine which treatment is required. In most instances where the animal involved is available, post-exposure vaccination, can be delayed pending the results of a public health investigation (e.g. 10 day confinement of dog or cat, testing of wildlife or bats for the rabies virus).
Those who have been vaccinated for rabies in the past should still consult their healthcare provider following a potential rabies exposure. A blood test can determine if there still is an adequate level of protection against rabies in your system.
In the event that test or investigation results call for vaccination, the HNHU will advise the victim(s) of the incident to consult their healthcare provider. The HNHU does not administer the vaccination, but will ensure the healthcare provider is provided with the rabies vaccine and rabies immune globulin (RIG) to do so. In most instances, four visits with the healthcare provider are required to receive the injections according to the schedule listed below:
|Day 0||Considered to be the first day the vaccination is administered. Includes a number of shots of RIG based on the patient’s weight, in addition to the first dose of vaccine.|
|Day 3||Second dose of vaccine is administered 3 days after the first dose.|
|Day 7||Third dose of vaccine is administered 7 days after the first dose.|
|Day 14||Fourth dose of vaccine is administered 14 days after the first dose.|
|Day 28 *||If the patient has a weakened immune system as stated by their health care provider, a fifth dose of vaccine will be administered 28 days after the first dose.|
It is important arrangements are made with your healthcare provider to ensure the vaccination administration stays on schedule as listed above. Failure to do so may reduce the effectiveness of the vaccine.
The HNHU is not responsible for removing dead animals with no known human contact from private or public (e.g. road kill) property. Property owners should take the following precautions when disposing of deceased animals:
- Wear gloves. Ideally use heavy-duty leak-proof rubber gloves (as used in household cleaning).
- If possible, avoid contact with the dead animal by handling it with a shovel.
- Do not rub your eyes, touch your face, eat, drink, or smoke while handling a dead animal.
- Dead animals should be buried at least 2 feet underground to help avoid having pets or other wildlife come into contact with them.
- Smaller sized carcasses can be disposed of in the household garbage. If doing so, care must be taken to avoid contact with the dead animal, and the carcass should be double-bagged.
- After disposing of a carcass, wash hands thoroughly with soap and warm water for at least 15-20 seconds.
- If clothes are contaminated during carcass removal, they should be kept in a sealed plastic bag until they are washed. They can be washed using ordinary washing detergent at the temperature normally used for washing the clothing.
- Other items that may have come in contact with the carcass should be thoroughly cleaned with normal household cleaner.
- Rabies in Ontario
- Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry
- Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs: Rabies
- Rabies Vaccine Bait Drop Protects Public Health in Hamilton
- Rabies vaccine Bait Identification
- Management of Potential Rabies Exposures Guideline, 2020
- After Bite: Protecting Animal Bite Victims from Rabies
- Fight the Bite: Protection against Rabies, Lyme Disease and West Nile Virus
- Bats and Rabies