First case of raccoon rabies since 2005 reported in raccoon captured in Hamilton

GREATER TORONTO AREA – The Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care (MOHLTC)is requesting that all public health units in southern Ontario that border New York State, as well as those sharing a border with Hamilton, ensure that their Raccoon Rabies Contingency Plans (RRCPs) are up-to-date.

The MOHLTC was notified on December 4, 2015, that a raccoon captured in the Hamilton area had tested positive for rabies, and that the rabies virus was confirmed to be the raccoon rabies strain that is circulating in North America and highly prevalent in New York State.

“This is Ontario’s first raccoon rabies case since 2005; previously, the only outbreak of raccoon rabies in Ontario occurred in eastern Ontario in 1999,” said Ross MacEachern, Manager, Environmental Health with the Health Department. From 1999 to 2005, Ontario conducted a very aggressive rabies vaccine wildlife bating program which resulted in the elimination of the raccoon rabies strain from the province.

Mr. MacEachern added that it is very important that the public is made aware of and follows the appropriate rabies prevention and control measures which include:

  • Keeping your dogs’ and cats’ rabies vaccinations current.
  • Not allowing pet dogs and cats to roam off-leash or unsupervised.
  • Avoiding all contact with wild animals, including preventing contact between pets and wildlife.
  • Reporting wild animals exhibiting abnormal behaviour, particularly raccoons, to either local animal control services, or directly to the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry Rabies Hotline at 1-888-574-6656.
  • Reporting all animal bites or other contacts that may result in transmission of rabies to humans to local regional or municipal Health Departments.

Additional information on rabies can be found by calling the Health Department’s Environmental Help Line at 1-888-777-9613.

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