The Regional Municipality of Durham


News Release

Health Department encourages education and rabies vaccination as a part of Rabies Awareness Month

WHITBY, ON May 02, 2017 - May is Rabies Awareness Month and Durham Region Health Department is encouraging the public to vaccinate their pets against rabies. Rabies is an infectious and contagious disease that attacks the brain and causes the death of the infected person or animal.

“Rabies is present in our wildlife population, most often associated with foxes, skunks and bats, and more recently with raccoons in southwestern Ontario,” explained Nella Correia, a senior public health inspector with the Health Department. “A key component of rabies prevention and control is responsible pet ownership, including rabies vaccination for all dogs and cats over three-months old. Pet owners can protect their family and their pets by ensuring that all dogs and cats have current vaccinations against rabies.” 

Low-cost rabies vaccination and microchip clinics are being held at various locations across Durham Region in May. For an up-to-date list of vaccination and microchip clinics visit durham.ca/rabies. Pet owners are asked to bring all cats in a carrier and dogs on a leash and are encouraged to check back regularly for updated clinic dates throughout the year.

The Health Department also recommends taking the following steps to avoid exposure to rabies:

Recently, the number of confirmed rabies cases has increased throughout Ontario, beginning with the identification of several rabid raccoons in Hamilton and surrounding area in December 2015.

“With the increase in the number of confirmed rabies cases across the province, local residents are reminded to avoid, and also ensure that their pets avoid, wild animals in particular, raccoons, skunks, foxes, and bats, which have been known to be infected with rabies,” Ms. Correia said.

Anyone who has had rabies exposure, which could include a bite, scratch, or contact with the saliva of an infected animal, or who has information on potential rabies exposure, should immediately report the incident to the Health Department at 905-723-3818 or 1-888-777-9613. The Health Department investigates over 1,000 animal bite reports each year in the Region, resulting in an average of 100 individuals receiving post-exposure anti-rabies treatment.

Since December 2015, over 200 wild animals have tested positive for raccoon rabies in southern Ontario. In response, the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) has expanded its rabies vaccine baiting program in southwestern Ontario. This program involves baits laced with rabies vaccine either aerial dropped or hand-tossed into green areas where they may then be consumed by wildlife. The vaccine has been shown to be effective in protecting raccoons, foxes, and skunks against rabies. For more information about the rabies vaccine baiting program, please call the Ministry hotline at 1-888-574-6656.

Despite all the various control measures implemented, rabies in bats remains a significant problem throughout the province. Studies have shown that approximately one per cent of any bat colony includes bats with rabies.

Last month, the Health Department hosted an inter-agency rabies meeting which involved key agencies in the province presenting information on response efforts, and activities aimed at controlling and preventing the spread of raccoon rabies. In addition to hosting the meeting, the Health Department has reviewed and updated its Rabies Contingency Plan, continues to collaborate on the expansion of low-cost rabies vaccination clinics in the Region, and is working on a strategy with the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care and Ontario Ministry of Transportation to provide consistent messaging about the risk of potentially rabid wild animals, such as raccoons, being transported from one area of the province to another.

For more information on rabies, or if you’re interested in hosting a rabies display, call the Health Department’s Environmental Help Line at 905-723-3818 or 1-888-777-9613. Information can also be obtained by visiting durham.ca/rabies.

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Media inquiries:

The Regional Municipality of Durham:
Glendene Collins - Health Department, 905-668-7711 ext. 2999, or glendene.collins@durham.ca

If this information is required in an accessible format, please contact 1-800-841-2729 ext. 3094.

For more information, please contact Health Department.