Rabies is a virus found in the saliva of infected wild animals such as skunks, foxes, raccoons and bats. It can spread to other wild animals, farm animals, pets and humans through a bite, scratch, cut or contact with the moist tissues of the mouth, nose and eyes. Rabies is a fatal disease.
UPDATE - September 8, 2016
Rabies has been found in a bat in Woodstock. This is the first animal case of rabies in Oxford County in over five years.
The case should be a reminder to residents to always supervise pets outdoors, vaccinate pets against rabies, and avoid contact with wildlife.
Rabies has emerged in the raccoon and skunk population in recent months in Hamilton and Brant County areas with 162 confirmed cases this year (as of July 2016). Additionally, two cases of fox rabies were recently confirmed in Perth County. Although the risk to the general public is low, ensuring your pets have up to date vaccinations is always a good idea. Also remember to always supervise pets outdoors and avoid contact with wildlife.
News release: Case of rabies discovered in a bat in Woodstock
Information about Hamilton raccoon rabies outbreak
Government of Ontario: Rabies
Low cost rabies vaccination clinics
To help prevent the spread of rabies, Oxford County Public Health and local veterinarians host annual low-cost rabies vaccination clinics across Oxford County in September. In 2016, these clinics will take place on Saturday, September 24. See the times and locations here.
To keep your pets and family rabies-free:
- Make sure your pet vaccinations are up to date
- Keep your pets indoors at night
- Teach children to stay away from wild animals and strange dogs and cats
- Always ask permission from a pet owner before trying to pet an animal
- Supervise children around pets
- Do not attempt to touch or feed wild animals
If you are bitten or scratched by an animal, wash the wound thoroughly with soap and water and seek medical attention. Call Public Health at 519-539-9800 ext. 3520 or 1-800-755-0394.
By law, cats and dogs must be vaccinated against rabies every one to three years. Contact your veterinarian for more information. Ontario Regulation 567-90
Resource: Information for health care providers
Rabies in Ontario
According to the Ministry of Natural Resources, rabies still exists in most parts of the world. At one time, Ontario had a high number of rabid animals reported. While the number of rabies cases in Ontario has declined since 1992, cases in animals still surface in Oxford County. In 2012, 28 cases of rabid animals have been reported in Ontario.
Be aware of the presence of wild animals in your neighbourhood, particularly where children and pets play. Be familiar with the signs of rabies in your pets and wild animals around your home including bats that can sometimes get into the home or barn.
Role of Oxford County Public Health
Animal bites should be reported to the Oxford County Public Health so that a public health inspector can do a follow-up investigation and ensure that the victim was not exposed to rabies.
During an investigation, a public health inspector will talk to the victim to get information about the exposure and ask questions to help identify the animal involved, for instance breed, size and distinct markings.
The public health inspector will then contact the animal owner to confirm the exposure and to make sure the animal in question and other household animals have been vaccinated against rabies.
Regardless of the rabies vaccination status, the animal in question must be confined for 10 days – this can normally be done by the animal owner in their home – to determine if the animal was rabid and infectious at the time of the bite.
If the animal owner cannot be located, Public Health may use other methods of locating the animal, such as flyers, approaches to people or businesses in the area, or even contacting the media. The public health inspector will also recommend that the biting victim talk to his or her doctor about post-exposure treatment for rabies.