Niagara Region Public Health is asking residents to be vigilant after a raccoon in West Lincoln tested positive for rabies.
A raccoon from the Caistor Centre area in West Lincoln- right beside Hamilton- has tested positive for rabies.
It’s the first non-bat case of rabies in more than 25 years, said public health’s Peter Jekel, manager of environmental health.
A total of 58 cases of raccoon rabies (42 raccoons and 16 skunks) have been confirmed in Hamilton and its surrounding areas since December. Before December, it had been over 10 years since any raccoon strain rabies had been identified in Ontario.
In a report to regional politicians on Jan. 5, Jekel said public health has taken steps such as updating its raccoon rabies contingency plan that outlines actions to be taken if a rapid raccoon is found in Niagara; briefings for local municipalities and first responders; a social media campaign reminding people to have their pets vaccinated and to avoid interacting with wild animals; a medical advisory to doctors, veterinarians and animal control officials; and co-ordinating with provincial ministries, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency which runs the rabies diagnostic lab for testing animals, and the public health departments in Hamilton and Haldimand-Norfolk.
The Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry along with SPCAs and Humane Societies have increased surveillance for animals with rabies since December, and the identification of this raccoon as rabid represents part of this effort. The Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry has also dropped bait filled with rabies immunization to stop the spread of rabies in the wild animal population. The Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry has stopped the bait dropping due to the cold weather and snow. It has not been determined if more action will be taken in the spring.
Niagara Region Public Health asks residents to take the following measures to protect themselves and their pests from rabies:
- Ensure pet dogs and cats have current rabies vaccinations
- Prevent pet dogs and cats from roaming off-leash or unsupervised
- Avoid all contact with wild animals and prevent contact between pets and wildlife
- Report wild animals exhibiting abnormal behaviour (particularly raccoons) to either their local animal control services, or directly to the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry Rabies Hotline at 1-888-574-6656
- Welland SPCA: 905-735-1552
- Lincoln County Humane Society: 905-688-7722
- Niagara Falls Humane Society: 905-356-4404
- Fort Erie Humane Society: 905-871-2461
- Report immediately all animal bites or other contacts that may result in transmission of rabies to humans to Niagara Region Public Health at 905-688-8248, ext. 7269 or toll free 1-888-505-6074. Niagara Region Public Health is available to take calls about animal bites 24/7
For more information about rabies, call Niagara Region Public Health at 905-688-8248, ext. 7269 or toll free 1-888-505-6074.