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Rabies - Frequently Asked Questions

 

Rabies is an infectious disease that is caused by a virus. Learn about rabies, how it spreads, signs and symptoms, what to do if you think that you have rabies, and more.

Have there been any confirmed cases of rabies in or near Halton Region?

Reoccurrence of raccoon strain rabies

There are several different strains (types) of rabies, including raccoon, fox and bat strains. In late 2015, several cases of raccoons with raccoon strain rabies were found in the Hamilton area (external link). These are the first cases of raccoon strain rabies since 2005.

As a result of these cases, Government of Ontario initiated additional oral rabies vaccine baiting (external link) that targeted foxes, raccoons and skunks.

Positive raccoon rabies results in Halton

Burlington

Number of raccoons and skunks found in Burlington from October 2016 - present:

  • 15 raccoons
  • 11 skunks
  • 1 bat

  • 1 Bat October 1, 2018
  • 1 Raccoon October 30, 2017
  • 1 Raccoon October 16, 2017
  • 1 Skunk October 6, 2017
  • 1 Raccoon September 18, 2017
  • 1 Skunk August 18, 2017
  • 1 Skunk August 10, 2017
  • 1 Raccoon August 3, 2017
  • 1 Skunk July 27, 2017
  • 1 Raccoon July 6, 2017
  • 1 Skunk July 6, 2017
  • 1 Raccoon July 6, 2017
  • 1 Raccoon July 6, 2017
  • 1 Skunk May 18 , 2017
  • 1 Skunk May 3 , 2017
  • 1 Skunk April 18 , 2017
  • 1 Raccoon April 18 , 2017
  • 1 Skunk February 13, 2017
  • 1 Raccoon January 3, 2017
  • 1 Raccoon December 23, 2016
  • 1 Raccoon December 2, 2016
  • 1 Skunk November 25, 2016
  • 1 Raccoon November 10, 2016
  • 1 Skunk November 2, 2016
  • 1 Raccoon October 28, 2016
  • 1 Raccoon October 19, 2016
  • 1 Raccoon October 4, 2016

Halton Hills

This municipality currently has no positive rabies tests in wild animals.

Milton

This municipality currently has no positive rabies tests in wild animals.

Oakville

This municipality currently has no positive rabies tests in wild animals.

What is rabies?

Rabies is an infectious disease that is caused by a virus. Infection with the rabies virus leads to acute viral encephalomyelitis (inflammation of the brain and spinal cord) and, ultimately, death.

Any warm-blooded animal can get rabies, including humans. The most common carriers of the rabies virus in Ontario are:

  • Raccoons
  • Foxes
  • Skunks
  • Coyotes
  • Bats

How does rabies spread?

The rabies virus is present in the saliva of an infected animal and is usually transmitted by a bite. Rabies can also be transmitted if infectious material (such as saliva) from the infected animal enters a wound or mucous membrane, such as the eyes, nose or mouth. The virus enters the nerves in the open wound or the mucous membranes and travels to the brain.

What are the signs and symptoms of rabies in animals?

Signs of rabies in animals might include:

  • Wild animals acting friendly or tame
  • Hiding in isolated areas and depression
  • Loss of fear of humans, especially skunks (e.g., they do not run away when approached by humans or domestic animals)
  • Paralysis, such as abnormal facial expressions, drooping heads, sagging jaws or paralyzed hind legs
  • Extreme excitement and aggression
  • Gnawing and biting their own legs
  • Attacking objects or other animals
  • Frothing at the mouth

What are the signs and symptoms of rabies in humans?

Initial symptoms are usually flu-like with fever, headache and nausea. As the disease progresses, symptoms might include:

  • Insomnia
  • Anxiety
  • Slight or partial paralysis
  • Increased activity, restlessness
  • Hallucinations
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Fear of water

Death can occur within days of the onset of symptoms, usually as a result of respiratory failure. Once symptoms appear, rabies is usually fatal.

How long does it take for rabies to develop?

  • Animals - 2 weeks to many months
  • Humans - 3 - 8 weeks (in some cases, as early as 9 days and as long as 7 years after exposure)

The length of time depends on a number of factors including:

  • Severity of the bite
  • Location of bite
  • Amount and the strain of the rabies virus

What should I do if I am bitten or scratched by an animal?

Follow these steps if you are bitten or scratched by an animal:

  • Wash the wound (or mucous membrane) immediately with soap and water and remove any clothing that might be contaminated with saliva.
  • Contact your family doctor.
  • Notify Animal Control Services if necessary.

Also report the incident immediately to your local Health Department. Provide as much information as possible about the incident, including:

  • Name and address of pet owner
  • Description of animal
  • Any other information that will help in finding the animal

How do I know if an animal was contagious with rabies when it bit or scratched me?

The Health Department will follow procedures to determine whether an animal was contagious with rabies when a bite or scratch has occurred. Although it can take a while for rabies to develop, the virus is only contagious for a short period of time before symptoms appear in the infected animal.

Dogs, cats and ferrets are confined for a 10-day isolation period at a location approved by the Health Department (usually the owner's home). During this time, the animal is observed for signs of rabies. If the animal was contagious at the time of the incident, then it will display signs of rabies within the 10-day period.

If the animal involved cannot be located and observed, then the victim might require post-exposure rabies treatment.

Will I get rabies if I am exposed to an infected animal?

It is possible to get rabies after exposure to an infected animal. However, rabies can be prevented in humans by giving a post-exposure rabies treatment, or prophylaxis, as soon as possible after exposure.

Once symptoms develop, rabies is usually fatal.

Is there a vaccine against rabies?

There are 2 reasons for vaccination against rabies:

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