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Raccoon Rabies found in Haldimand County

SIMCOE, DECEMBER 11, 2015– The Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit was notified Friday afternoon that a raccoon from the Cayuga area tested positive for rabies. This comes only days after four raccoons from Hamilton tested positive for the same strain of raccoon rabies; a strain that was considered eliminated from Ontario since 2005. While the reemergence of this particular strain of rabies is a concern, the risk to the public remains low. “As with any animal bite that we are notified of, we have investigative procedures in place to help ensure the victim is protected from getting rabies” reminds Sandy Stevens, Manager of the Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit’s Environmental Health Team. Persons bitten or scratched by domestic animals or wildlife should immediately clean their wounds with soap and water and seek medical attention. Once the Health Unit is notified of the incident by the healthcare provider and/or the victim, the situation will be assessed and prescribed actions can be taken largely depending on the type of animal involved. In most instances, wildlife can be tested for the rabies virus while domestic dogs and cats can be confined at home for 10 days to rule out transmission of the virus. If there is a risk of exposure to the virus, post-exposure prophylaxis (vaccine) is available.

Although 2005 marked the last case of raccoon rabies in the province, the threat of its reemergence has always remained constant due to the strain’s prevalence in New York State. “This virus continues to be a public health concern and we are asking the public to remain vigilant in preventing rabies” adds Stevens. “Having your dog and cat up to date on their rabies vaccination is not only the law but it of course protects your pet should it be attacked by another animal” suggests Stevens. In addition to ensuring your pet’s rabies vaccination status is up to date, the Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit is asking the public to take the following preventative measures:

  • Stay away from and do not touch unfamiliar animals, or animals acting strangely.
  • Stay away from wild animals.
  • Prevent pets from coming into contact with wildlife.
  • Supervise children when they are around animals. Accidents do happen.
  • Do not let pets roam free.
  • Feed indoor pets indoors. Feeding pets outdoors can attract other unwanted animals.
  • Report all animal bites, scratches and any other contact that might result in transmission of rabies to a person to the Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit at 519-426-6170 or 905-318-6623.
  • Report all domestic pets exposed to potentially rabid animals to your local vet and/or the Ontario Ministry of Farms and Rural Affairs’ Agricultural Information contact Centre at 1-877-424-1300.
  • Report all wildlife (e.g. raccoons, skunks, foxes, etc.) exhibiting abnormal behaviour to the Ministry of Natural resources and Forestry Rabies Hotline at 1-888-574-6656.

The Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit is currently working with the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF), the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food as well as the Hamilton Public Health Service to contain the situation. While the risk remains low for the public, an aggressive bait vaccination campaign by the MNRF, ongoing surveillance and investigations by responding agencies as well as increased public messaging are now underway in an attempt to limit the spread of the raccoon rabies virus in the area. Beginning Monday December 14th the MNRF will begin an enhanced wildlife vaccination program, dropping 150,000 packets of bait in a 25km radius around the area where the rabid raccoons were found.

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Media contact:
Sandy Stevens
Program Manager
Environmental Health Team
Haldimand Norfolk Health Unit
519-426-6170 ext. 3216
Sandy.stevens@hnhu.org