Cases of rabies have risen in southwest Ontario recently, so much so that the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry is getting creative when it comes to finding solutions. The ministry will be using helicopters to drop baited rabies vaccines in forested areas and placing them by hand in cities, hoping to prevent further spread of the disease. Upwards of 350,00 of the vaccines will be distributed.
Hundreds of raccoons and skunks have tested positive for rabies in the past year and a half, with 343 cases of raccoon rabies being confirmed. Rabies is carried in saliva, and it can be transferred if an infected animal bites another and breaks the skin. However, if uninfected animals consume the vaccine, they will become immune to the rabies virus within two weeks. The baited vaccines will not harm people or pets, but the ministry advises keeping away from them, and contacting a vet if your pet does consume one.
A rabid raccoon may present in various ways. Some become lethargic, and even partially paralyzed, while other may become aggressive, biting themselves and other animals. If you see an animal that is having trouble walking, is foaming at the mouth, is making strange noises, or simply looks sick, the ministry recommends keeping your distance and calling animal control, or the OPP if it is aggressive.
Raccoons and skunks aren’t the only animals out there who might be carrying rabies. Animals from black bears to beavers have tested positive for the disease. It’s best to keep away from animals when in doubt about the status of their health. Sightings of potentially rabid animals should be reported to the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) Rabies Information Line (1-888-574-6656).