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Three more cases of raccoon rabies in Haldimand County, Distemper Cases Also Spike

Three more raccoons have tested positive for rabies in Haldimand County.

According to a press release from the Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit, two of the infected raccoons were found on the outskirts of Caledonia and another was found in a rural area of south Hagersville.

All the raccoons were found within a 10-kilometre radius, said Chris Davies, manager of wildlife research with the Ministry of Natural Resources.

That brings the total number of cases to 11 in Hamilton and four in the Haldimand area.

There has been no new rabies cases confirmed in Hamilton since the last two were confirmed Jan. 5, said Davies.

The ministry recently announced the end of its raccoon rabies vaccine bait program for the season, after distributing 220,000 baits in the Hamilton area.

Davies said that is because the raccoons are now in denning mode for the winter. The animals tend to make their dens in places like sheds, barns, garages, holes in trees and hay lofts.

During denning it would be abnormal to see a raccoon during the day, but that doesn’t necessarily mean a raccoon spotted in daylight has rabies, said Davies.

The rabies outbreak in Hamilton dates back to early December when a raccoon in an Animal Services truck got into a fight with two bullmastiff dogs.

Davies said the disease was probably brought to Hamilton by a long-distance transport truck or train and then infected the dense raccoon population in this region. The raccoon population density is about six to 10 raccoons per square kilometre in the Hamilton area.

Davies’ team will continue to test samples from a designated surveillance zone until spring.

The recent outbreak of raccoon rabies in southwestern Ontario has produced another discovery: a far greater number of the animals are suffering from distemper,

While they have found just 15 cases of rabies so far in the region, about 90 per cent of samples have come back positive for distemper, a virus that can exhibit similar symptoms to rabies, but cannot be transferred to humans.

Since the outbreak, officials have taken samples from suspicious animals, sometimes from roadkill or animals acting strangely that have been shot, and sent them off for testing.

“Ninety-five-per-cent of the animals acting strangely that were not positive for rabies have come back positive for distemper,” said Chris Davies, manager of wildlife research and monitoring with the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry.

Distemper, he noted, is “very, very common” among raccoons and is “indistinguishable” from rabies. In both cases, the animals look sick, act confused, and walk in circles, he said.

The good news is that distemper, which can be fatal, cannot be passed on to humans, although your pets can pick it up from wildlife, Davies said.

Untreated, rabies is almost always fatal in animals and humans.

There is a vaccination for distemper that residents can get for their pets, said Davies.

A number of Haldimand County veterinary clinics are offering a temporary low cost rabies vaccination program for all residents of Haldimand County, Six Nations and New Credit until Jan. 30.

Dogs and cats will be administered a rabies vaccination by a qualified staff member at participating offices (listed below) for a cost of just $15 (plus HST). For more information or to book an appointment for a rabies vaccination, contact any of these participating clinics:

  • Dunnville Veterinary Clinic 905-774-7642
  • Grand River Veterinary Hospital (Caledonia) 905-765-0001
  • Caledonia Veterinary Clinic 905-765-6206
  • Hagersville Veterinary Services 905-768-1611
  • Cayuga Veterinary Clinic 905-772-1576

Persons wanting to report wildlife (e.g. raccoons, skunks, foxes, etc.) exhibiting abnormal behaviour should contact the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry Rabies Hotline at 1-888-574-6656.

If, however, the animal was involved in a bite, scratch or any other contact that might result in transmission of rabies to a person, the incident should be reported to the HNHU at 519-426-6170 or 905-318-6623 or Hamilton’s public health at 905-546-3570.

Incidents only involving domestic pets being exposed to potentially rabid animals should be reported to your local vet and/or the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs’ Agricultural Information contact Centre at 1-877-424-1300.


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About the author:Founder of Skedaddle Humane Wildlife Control in 1989. Canada's largest urban wildlife removal and exclusion company. Industry leader and pioneer. Split, Scram, Scoot! However you want to say it, Skedaddle Humane Wildlife Control has helped over 200,000 home owners and businesses safely and effectively resolve their wildlife issues. Happy to discuss business and franchising opportunities

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