Rabies vaccine baiting underway

GUELPH – Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health is advising the community that efforts to curb the spread of rabies in wild animals will continue this summer.

The Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) is dropping rabies vaccine bait in targeted areas of the province, including Wellington and Dufferin counties from July to October this year.

MNRF baiting efforts aim to reduce rabies in the wildlife population and the serious risk the virus poses to people and their pets. Baiting will occur by hand in urban green spaces.

In forested and agricultural areas, the bait will be dropped by helicopter or yellow twin otter aircraft. When a raccoon, fox or skunk bites into the bait and swallows the vaccine it should develop immunity to rabies in about two weeks.

Baits should not be moved unless they are near where children play. Anyone who must move a bait packet is advised to place a plastic bag over their hand to keep their scent off the bait and move it to an area where wildlife might find it. The vaccine is not harmful to people or pets, but anyone who ingests one, or has a pet who does,  should contact a doctor or veterinarian as a precaution.

Locally, several animals have tested positive for rabies since 2017. These include two skunks in Elora and one in Mapleton, three bats in Guelph and one bat in the Belwood area.

“Wild animals that carry rabies can inhabit both rural and urban areas, so it is important to be aware of the risk no matter where you live or play,” said Medical Officer of Health Dr. Nicola Mercer, CEO of Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health.

“It is important to stay away from unfamiliar or wild animals. If you are in close contact with a wild animal, call your physician or go to the emergency room right away.”

Rabies is a virus that spreads through the saliva of infected mammals, such as through a bite that breaks the skin, or if the infected animal’s saliva gets into an open wound or mucous membrane. Once symptoms begin, rabies is fatal.

Anyone who sees an animal behaving strangely or aggressively, is advised to stay away and call the local animal control agency or the police. To avoid putting others at risk, ensure cats and dogs are vaccinated for rabies.

For information visit wdgpublichealth.ca/rabies.