2 simple ways to prevent the spread of rabies


Photo credits: H. Greenwood (fox, raccoon), J. Segers (bat), R. Hodnett (skunk)


September 28th is World Rabies Day

2016 marks the 10th annual World Rabies Day, declared by The Global Alliance for Rabies Control to raise awareness on rabies and rabies prevention worldwide.

The Canadian Wildlife Health Cooperative (CWHC) is active both in the diagnosis and tracking of rabies in wildlife but also in collaborating with partners on control and prevention.  Our quarterly reports include a summary of rabies cases diagnosed by province.  Our Ontario region recently saw the re-occurrence of a raccoon strain of rabies previously eliminated from the province.  The province of Ontario is leading a program to control rabies in wildlife by dropping bait that contain vaccine.  Other provinces also have rabies surveillance and vaccination programs including New Brunswick and Québec.

Educating people about the occurrence and risks of rabies is a critical step in preventing its spread.  Here are two simple ways everyone can contribute to rabies prevention.

2 simple steps to prevent rabies

Step 1 – Leave wildlife alone

Today, the urban-wildland interface is growing and increasingly we must share space with wild animals.  Whether its bats in your barn, raccoons in your garbage can or skunks in the backyard, wild animals are all around us.  Any wild animal, and particularly the common rabies vector species of raccoon, skunk, fox and bat should be treated as a potential source of rabies.  Despite society’s image of an aggressive old yeller frothing at the mouth, not all rapid animals will appear sick.  Contact should be avoided in all cases.  If you see wildlife in your neighbourhood or property:

Keep a safe distance.  Don’t feed wildlife. Don’t touch a sick or dead animal. Call someone.

If the animal appears sick, call a local wildlife rehabilitation facility for advice or your local wildlife officer.

If the animal is dead, call your local wildlife officer or your closest regional CWHC centre for advice.

Step 2 – Vaccinate your petswrd-poster

The vast majority of human cases of rabies involve dogs.  Un-vaccinated pets that are allowed to free-roam are much more likely to contract the virus.  Dogs  might have an encounter with a raccoon or skunk, and cats are particularly drawn to prey on low-flying bats.   Rabies is a viral infection that is transmitted through saliva through bite wounds, scratches or other wounds.  The rabies virus can be easily transmitted if your pet is allowed to run loose and interact with wildlife. First, keep your pet on a leash or under control while in wildlife areas.   Second, vaccinate.  Vaccination is simple, effective prevention.  Keeping your pets rabies vaccinations up to date will keep your animals healthy, but also protect your family.

What to do if you are are bitten or scratched by a wild animal

If you are bitten or scratched by an animal, you should

  • Wash the wound thoroughly with soap and water.
  • Seek urgent medical attention.

Modern vaccines are the only way to prevent the onset of rabies after exposure. Please treat any potential exposure to rabies seriously.


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