Health Alert: Fox-variant Rabies case in Perth County

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On Dec. 28, 2015, a calf exhibiting neurological signs in Ellice Ward, ON. (Perth County) was euthanized and tested for rabies. Test results were received on Dec. 30, and were positive for rabies (arctic fox variant). The last two cases of arctic fox-variant rabies in Southern Ontario (a skunk and a cat) were also found in this area. It is likely that the virus has continued to circulate in wildlife in the area at very low level, and that this case simply represents a spillover into the domestic animal population, rather than a new incursion in the area. The other animals that were in contact with the rabid calf are under confinement, and no additional cases have been detected to date.

The Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) has established an enhanced surveillance zone around the positive case and is planning for wildlife rabies vaccine baiting in the area the spring. This case is unrelated to the recent incursion of raccoon-variant rabies detected in the Hamilton ON area.

This is a reminder to veterinarians to remain vigilant for cases of domestic animal exposure to potentially rabid animals. There continues to be a risk of incursion of fox rabies from northern regions of the province and of raccoon rabies from New York State. Contact with rabid bats also remains a risk in all regions.

The best protection against rabies for both domestic animals and people is to avoid contact with potentially rabid wildlife and to keep domestic animals up-to-date on rabies vaccination. Rabies vaccination for dogs and cats is a regulatory requirement in most of the province, and is also available for livestock. If you suspect a domestic animal may have recently been exposed to a potentially rabid animal, it should be vaccinated (or revaccinated) as soon as possible if it isn’t possible to have the offending animal tested.

Reminder of who to call in cases of potential rabies exposure:

1. Human exposure to a potentially rabid animal → Local Public Health (PH) Unit

2. Domestic animal exposure to a potentially rabid animal, NO human exposure → Local veterinarian / OMAFRA

  • Animal owners should be directed to contact their local veterinarian as the first step for any animal health concerns.
  • Veterinarians can call the OMAFRA Agricultural Information Contact Centre: 1-877-424-1300 for assistance.

3. Abnormal wildlife, NO domestic animal exposure, NO human exposure → MNRF or CWHC

  • For terrestrial wildlife, call the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) Rabies Hotline: 1-888-574-6656.
  • If a sick or injured bat is found, consider contacting the Canadian Wildlife Health Cooperative (CWHC) at 1-866-673-4781.

Additional information for the public & veterinarians:

OMAFRA Rabies in Ontario website:

http://www.omafra.gov.on.ca/english/food/inspection/ahw/rabies.htm