In a rather unusual development, a calf in Ellice Ward, Ontario has been diagnosed with rabies. It’s the first case of rabies in any animal species in Perth County since 2012, and looking at the Canadian Food Inspection Agency surveillance records, it’s the first rabid bovine in Ontario since 2011.
Rabies has been in the news a lot in Ontario recently with the identification of raccoon rabies in the Hamilton region for the first time in December 2015. This case is unrelated, as the rabies strain that was identified was the Arctic fox variant, not the raccoon variant. How the calf was exposed would be interesting to know, since this is well south of the typical Arctic fox range. However, it is in the same district as the last known pocket of the Arctic fox variant rabies in southern Ontario.
Unlike the Hamilton situation, where there’s significant concern that this could be a sign of an emerging and serious problem, this is probably a rare, single event that won’t lead anywhere. However, it’s a good reminder of the ever-present risk of rabies in endemic regions, including species where rabies is uncommonly found. Any mammal that is potentially exposed to wildlife has some risk of rabies exposure. Vaccination of livestock against rabies is highly effective but uncommonly done, in part because of cost and awareness. It’s widely recommended to “consider” vaccinating livestock but beyond horses, that’s not very commonly applied.