New Brunswick Increases Surveillance for Rabies in Wildlife
The New Brunswick government has implemented a system of heightened surveillance for rabies in wildlife in the southwestern part of the province in response to an incursion of the raccoon variant of rabies that began there in late May of 2014. Since then, a total of 12 rabid animals (11 Raccoons and 1 Striped Skunk) have been detected in southwestern New Brunswick. Heightened surveillance to ascertain the geographic extent of this incursion is a crucial first step before control measures can be considered.
New Brunswick had experienced a prior incursion of raccoon variant rabies between 2000 and 2002, when a total of 64 wild animals (55 Raccoons and 9 Striped Skunks) were found to have rabies during that time period. The previous incursion had been eradicated following the implementation of a wildlife rabies control program in the fall of 2001. This program included the live trapping and humane killing of wild raccoons, striped skunks and red foxes within a 5 km radius of locations where rabid animals were found; in addition to live trapping, vaccination against rabies, ear-tagging and release of wild raccoons, skunks, foxes and feral domestic cats (with no collar or identification tags) within another 5 km zone peripheral to the depopulation zone. The trap-vaccinate-release program was continued through 2007 and an oral rabies wildlife vaccine drop was conducted in 2008 in conjunction with a similar program in adjacent Maine. New Brunswick discontinued its heightened surveillance and wildlife rabies vaccination programs after 2008.
Since 2008, rabies surveillance in wildlife was mostly limited to testing wild animals that came in contact with humans or domestic animals. No cases of raccoon variant rabies were detected in New Brunswick between 2002 and 2014, but 7 cases (6 bats, 1 cat) of bat variant rabies were detected during that time interval.
Heightened surveillance will focus on wild animals exhibiting abnormal behaviour or locomotion. Persons who observe or encounter a wild raccoon, skunk or fox that may be rabid are encouraged to report the incident to a provincial telecare (811) line that will make arrangements for someone to pick the animal up for rabies testing.
Submitted by Dr. Jim Goltz, Manager of Veterinary and Pathology Services, NB Dept. of Agriculture, Aquaculture and Fisheries