As the weather cools down and wildlife of various kinds become less active (as do many pets and people!), we tend to see a decline in the number of rabies cases detected in the province. It doesn’t mean the risk is no longer there, it just means we’re less likely to encounter the animals that most commonly carry the virus (i.e. skunks, raccoons, foxes, and especially bats). So far in 2022, bat-variant rabies has been confirmed in 27 bats across the province (very typical number at this point in the year). Raccoon-variant rabies has been confirmed in 15 skunks and 5 raccoons, remarkably all in one very small area in and around St. Catharines. There was also one case of bat-variant rabies in a skunk in Waterloo region, which again emphasizes that we always need to be vigilant for this disease, even in areas where it hasn’t been recently detected in non-bat wildlife. The only domestic animal diagnosed with rabies so far in 2022 was a dog that had been imported from Iran that was carrying canine-variant rabies.
The Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) has just launched a new interactive map to help provide more information about where active (within the last two years) and expired (more than 2 years ago) rabies cases have been detected in Ontario, and where wildlife testing has been done. The map lets you select the year (or multiple years) of testing, and can be zoomed in to your own municipality (but still protects the confidentiality of where specific animals were found). You can also click on individual case dots for more information. The image below is a screen shot of the map showing the cases that were detected in St. Catharines in 2022. The map does NOT show cases of bat-variant rabies, because the risk from bats is present across the province, and is not higher or lower in a given area based on whether there have been recent detections.
Remember: It’s still important to keep your pets up-to-date on their rabies vaccination every 1-3 years (depending on the vaccine product) – and it’s legally required for ALL dogs, cats and ferrets over 3 months of age in Ontario – even if they never go outside (because bats can and do get inside!). More information about rabies and rabies response in Ontario can be found on Ontario.ca/rabies and on the OMAFRA rabies webpage.