Rabies in Hamilton and Haldimand

On behalf of Niagara Region Public Health, I would like to briefly update you on a new development concerning the rabies situation that has been in the media this past week.

Rabies is an infection of the brain and spinal cord which is almost always fatal. It is spread to humans after bites or scratches by infected animals, or after other contact with the saliva of infected animals.

There had not been any rabies in ground-level animals in over 10 years in Ontario (it was still present in bats), until last week. Unfortunately, as you have likely seen from media reports, there have been 4 raccoons with rabies found in Hamilton since then. We have now been informed of a raccoon with rabies in Haldimand County as well.

In response to this, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) will be dropping bait with rabies vaccine in a radius around where the raccoon was found, and this will extend into Niagara. The MNRF is also testing several animal carcasses picked up in Niagara for rabies as a possible source of death.

While no rabies has yet been found in any ground-level animals in Niagara, we are alert to the possibility, particularly since rabies is frequently found in ground-level animals in New York State.Since rabies is almost always fatal and since there is no cure for rabies, it is imperative that the infection is prevented from occurring in the first place. This past week, Niagara Region Public Health responded to the cases of raccoon rabies by:

  • Updating to our raccoon rabies contingency plan, which we’d implement if a rabid raccoon were found in Niagara in order to prevent further spread amongst animals or to humans
  • Informing our physicians, veterinarians and animal control officials, and providing them with current guidance
  • Launching a social media campaign to remind the public to avoid interacting with wild animals, to get their pets vaccinated for rabies, and to following-up with Public Health after a bite or scratch
  • Coordinating with federal and provincial agencies and ministries, as well as the City of Hamilton Public Health Services and Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit

We are also informing our local SPCAs and first responders about the latest developments.

Niagara Region Public Health is continuing to monitor the situation closely, and we are available 24/7 to respond to any new developments as well as to follow-up with residents who experience animal bites and scratches, and facilitate preventive vaccination for them.

Please let me know if you have any questions.

M. Mustafa Hirji, MD MPH FRCPC
Associate Medical Officer of Health
Niagara Region Public Health

1815 Sir Isaac Brock Way
P.O. Box 1052, Station Main
Thorold, Ontario L2V 0A2

Phone: 905-688-8248 ext. 7466 Toll-free: 1-800-505-6074
Fax: 905-682-3901

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