The City of Hamilton says there have been three new cases of raccoon rabies in the city, bringing the total to four that have tested positive for the virus in the past week.
The discovery of the diseased raccoons was made after tests were done on 14 dead raccoons picked up city Animal Services since Friday.
“Today, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency confirmed to the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry that three of the 14 dead raccoons picked up by Animal Services since Friday have also tested positive for Raccoon Strain Rabies bringing the total confirmed cases to four,” the city said in a news release.
These additional cases signal that Raccoon Strain Rabies is circulating in the raccoon population in Hamilton,” the city said.
These cases are the first of the raccoon rabies strain found in Ontario since 2005. The fox rabies strain hasn’t been detected in Ontario since 2010, while bat rabies remains more common in small pockets in the province.
Ministry officials were out in Stoney Creek, where the initial rabid raccon was found earlier in the week, distributing the rabies raccoons from helicopters, cars, and on foot.
The Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry is also now expanding the geographic scope of the bait drop from the original area between the Red Hill Valley, Mud Street, Fruitland Road, and the lakeshore to include Haldibrook Road, Glancaster/Upper Paradise and Woodburn Road.
“This is of course a concern,” Hopkins said, adding that the ministry will also be testing other animals for rabies to discern the “geographic scope” of the issue.
“However, the risk to the general public is low,” she said.
Chris Davies, the Ministry of Natural Resources’ manager of wildlife research, said that 46,000 bait vaccines will be dropped in the Hamilton area by the end of the week.
The ministry has a stockpile of 500,000 bait packs to draw from in case of an incident like this, Davies said. That’s a plus, as it takes about five to six months to make. A second round of vaccine baits will be dropped in the spring and summer, Davies said. By then, the province should have a handle on the spread of the infection.
The Ministry says that the last known case of rabies infection in a human happened back in 1967 in the Ottawa area.
Rabies is a viral disease that attacks the central nervous system of mammals, including humans. Once clinical signs appear, rabies is almost always fatal in animals and people. In Canada the animals that most often transmit rabies are bats, skunks and foxes.
Rabies is a reportable disease under the Health of Animals Act, and all suspect cases must be reported to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA). All suspect rabies cases are verified in a CFIA rabies laboratory.
If anyone believes they had contact with the sick raccoon before it was picked up, they should contact 905-546-2489.
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