Have you been bitten or scratched by an animal? Here at Public Health, we work to help prevent rabies within the community. Our public health inspectors are responsible for investigating all animal incidents, like when a person is bitten or scratched and their skin has been broken. This step helps us determine if there is any risk of a person getting rabies.
Rabies in Ontario
The raccoon strain of rabies has re-emerged in the Ontario wildlife population. Starting in December 2015 and after a ten-year absence, cases of raccoon rabies have been confirmed among wild and stray animals in Hamilton, Halton, Niagara, Haldimand-Norfolk, Brant, and Perth.
To date, there have been no cases of rabies in the Wellington, Dufferin and Guelph area. For the most up-to-date information about cases of rabies in Ontario, please see this surveillance map by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry.
What is rabies?
Rabies is a caused by a virus that attacks the nervous system (brain and spinal cord) of warm-blooded animals. The rabies virus can affect any mammal including humans, domestic pets, like dogs and cats, farm animals and wild animals like foxes, raccoons, skunks and bats.
Rabies is spread by the saliva of infected animals, most commonly through a bite or scratch. It can also be spread when saliva touches an open wound or the moist tissues of the mouth, nose or eyes.
Animals can spread rabies even before they show symptoms. There is no cure for rabies once symptoms start. Rabies vaccine must be given as soon as possible, before symptoms appear. Once the symptoms of rabies start, it is fatal.
How to protect your family and pets
To prevent rabies, it is important to avoid all contact with wild animals, including between pets and wildlife. Also, ensure your dogs and cats have up-to-date rabies vaccinations.
If you get bitten or scratched by an animal
- Wash the wound with soap and water.
- Contact your family doctor or go to a hospital emergency room immediately. We will provide rabies vaccine to your doctor, if needed.
- As soon as possible, call our Public Health Inspection Line at 1-800-265-7293 ext. 4753. After-hours, on weekends and on holidays, please call 1-877-884-8653.
If your pet or livestock is bitten by a wild or stray animal
Contact your veterinarian for advice as soon as possible.
If you notice a wild or stray animal behaving oddly or aggressively
If you see a wild animal acting oddly, do not go near it. Call the Ministry of Natural Resources (MNRF) Rabies Hotline at 1-888-574-6656. Signs of odd behaviour in wild animals, like raccoons, include when they lose their fear of humans.
If an animal is acting aggressively and threatening people or pets, call your local animal control service or the police.
If you find a sick or a dead bat
Do not touch the bat. Call the Canadian Wildlife Health Cooperative at 1-866-673-4781. If a person has had direct contact with the bat, call your family doctor and Public Health right away.
For more information about rabies and how to protect yourself, visit these websites:
- Hamilton Public Health
- Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry
- Ministry of Agriculture, Food, and Rural Affairs