It seems to be a bit of a slow month for zoonoses. Finally getting some cold weather here in Ontario certainly helps keep many bugs at bay (and people indoors). Nonetheless, rabies continues to keep us hopping. The Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) is continuing with its surveillance efforts around the cluster of rabid raccoons detected in the Hamilton area in December. They’ve done considerable testing in the wider surveillance zone to try to find the “edges” of the incursion, and have now gone back to test more animals in areas closer to the other positive cases. Ten (10) more cases have been detected, all in the original control zone that was baited in December.
It’s important to remember that this isn’t a sudden spike in cases – these raccoons were collected over several weeks from Dec 21 to Jan 13 and were tested in a batch. Potentially rabid animals that have had contact with a person or domestic animal are tested right away (through either the local public health unit or a local veterinarian or animal control, with assistance from OMAFRA), because a person may require post-exposure prophylaxis, or an animal revaccination +/- confinement if the test is positive. For these surveillance samples, however, testing does not need to be done immediately.
The key messages remain the same: stay away from wildlife, keep pets vaccinated against rabies (yes, even indoor pets and dogs that only walk on leashes!), and if a person or pet has any contact with suspicious wildlife, contact your local public health unit or veterinarian (respectively) as soon as possible.
An updated map of cases and the current MNRF control zone is available on the OMAFRA website. The map also shows the surveillance zone around the recent case of fox-variant rabies diagnosed in a calf in Perth county.