I’ve written a lot about the issues of dog importation and the diseases that can sometimes “come along for the ride”. However, high risk movement doesn’t need to be international. Any movement from a high risk area can be a concern. A recent article in Canadian Communicable Disease Report (Curry et al. 2016) addresses the issue of movement of dogs from Nunavut (a territory in northern Canada) to southern regions. The article focuses on a couple of rabies incidents that resulted from movement of infected puppies to Alberta and Saskatchewan.
The first incident was in 2013, when a Calgary resident that had worked in Nunavut arranged to have a friend bring a puppy back for her. She had seen the puppies while in Nunavut but couldn’t take one at that point because of their age. A few weeks later, the friend brought one of the puppies back.
Upon arrival, the puppy looked okay, but a little over a month later, it started vomiting and had bitten the other dogs in the household and the owner’s roommate. It deteriorated neurologically pretty quickly, was euthanized and identified as being rabid. Subsequent testing identified (not surprisingly) the Arctic fox strain of rabies virus.
- The other dog had been primarily vaccinated for rabies but had not yet received its one-year booster. The owner chose euthanasia over vaccinating the dog immediately and placing it under observation for 45 days.
- 18 people were identified as having had contact with the puppy and 9 received rabies post-exposure prophylaxis. This consisted of 4 household members, 4 friends of the owner and one veterinarian.
Interestingly, none of the other puppies or the mother were identified as being rabid. A rabid fox had been identified in the community that winter and Arctic fox rabies is endemic in the area, but it was surprising that none of the others had been exposed (and infected) as well.
A construction camp worker in Nunavut became fond of a local puppy and decided to bring it back to Saskatchewan. The puppy became sick en route and had behavioural abnormalities by the time it arrived. It bit a family member and had many neurological abnormalities when it was examined by their vet. Rabies was suspected, the puppy was euthanized, and the test was positive.
- The puppy had travelled to Saskatchewan from Nuvanut via Yellowknife (Northwest Territories) and Edmonton (Alberta), requiring multi-province/territory coordination.
- Two co-workers in Nunavut were exposed. They had returned home to Nova Scotia, adding another province to the list.
- The family member that was bitten received post-exposure prophylaxis. Because of pre-existing travel plans, the last dose was administered in Ireland, adding another country to the response.
- The veterinary technician that was collecting samples for testing cut herself in the process. She received post-exposure prophylaxis.
- Workers in multiple airports were investigated to ensure no one had contact with the puppy. Fortunately, no contacts were identified.
- The other dog in the household was behind on its rabies vaccinations but was boostered immediately and quarantined for 45 days as per the Saskatchewan Ministry of Agriculture.
As expected, this puppy was infected with the Arctic fox strain. Littermates were not traced (in part because there is no veterinary or agricultural regulatory body in Nunavut). However, around the same time, another rabid dog was identified in the same community. Both it and a fox in the area were infected with rabies virus.