Province trying to prevent raccoon rabies epidemic
Ministry of Natural Resources officials are awaiting test results from dozens of dead and sick raccoons picked up over the past couple of weeks, to try to get a handle on the severity of a rabies outbreak in the Hamilton area.
There are five confirmed cases. One in the lower city of Stoney Creek, three on the Mountain and one in Cayuga.
But the results from more than 35 samples more recently acquired — and undergoing testing — will help determine whether a raccoon rabies epidemic in New York state has gained a foothold into Ontario.
The samples come mostly from Animal Services in Hamilton, which routinely picks up dead, injured and sick animals, including raccoons.
We’re all hopeful the outbreak in the Hamilton area will extinguish itself over the next several months.
“We are in the exploratory stage right now,” said Chris Davies, the Ministry of Natural Resources’ manager of wildlife research.
“We are trying to figure out how large the geographic extent of the current cases is,” he said.
The samples, from brain tissue in the deceased animals, go through two testing regiments. There’s a quick test that creates a short list of potential positive results. And then there is a more costly and elaborate procedure by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency that roots out the false positive results of the first test. While the testing is being done, the ministry has been blitzing the Hamilton area with tens of thousands of raccoon rabies vaccine baits in hopes of containing a spread of the disease.
The rabies strain known as the South Atlantic/Florida strain has been moving northward from Florida over the past several decades.
It hit New York state 25 years ago, leading to an epidemic there. (Source: Hamilton Spectator)